Acknowledgement of Country

The NFSA acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways across Australia. 

We pay respect to their Elders, past and present. 

The bridge of our dreams come true!

Popular song, 1930

Navigating the exhibition

You can navigate through this exhibition using the dots and chapter headings left of screen.

The arrow controls at bottom left and right of screen allow you to move back and forward between slides within each chapter.

You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate.

We hope you enjoy this exhibition!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The People's Bridge

Connecting Sydney

'The Coathanger', as the bridge is affectionately known, has been the site of fireworks, marathons, stunts, protests and an Olympic torch run.

It also has its share of romantic moments with an average of three couples per week getting engaged while they're on the Bridge Climb.

Ten News, Townsville, 16 March 1998

Bridge Climb Opens

Ten News, Sydney, 15 September 2000

Greg Norman and the Olympic Torch

The Bridge We've Been Waiting For, 1931

From Manly and Mosman to Double Bay

The Iron Lung

The bridge took 1,400 men eight years to build. Sixteen lives were lost and hundreds of homes and businesses demolished. It was known as the 'Iron Lung' because of the jobs it created during The Great Depression.

The steelwork weighs 52,800 tonnes and is held together by 6 million rivets – each one driven in by hand. It rises 134 metres above sea level – almost as high as The Great Pyramid in Egypt – and is 503 metres long.

Constructing Australia: The Bridge, 2006

Building the Bridge

A Year to Remember, 1932

A memorable opening

Star of the screen

The bridge often makes an appearance in film and TV to signify Sydney, and Australia as a whole. This photo is from a 1964 promotional shoot for TV station ATN-7.

In this chapter you can see an Aussie tourism ad featuring Paul Hogan, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome's post-apocalyptic Sydney and Starstruck's affectionate portrait of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Hotel.

Australian Tourist Commission ad for US market

Paul Hogan: Statue of Liberty

Starstruck, 1982

The Harbour Bridge Hotel

Paul Hogan, Harbour Bridge Rigger, 1970

Before Paul Hogan's appearance on the talent show New Faces, he worked as a rigger on the bridge. He went on to create and star in The Paul Hogan Show and the iconic Crocodile Dundee movies. Hogan became a big name in America thanks to a series of Australian tourism ads. He endeared himself to audiences thanks to his promise to 'slip an extra shrimp on the barbie' for visitors to Australia.


The pylons are just for show. They were added to give the public confidence in the bridge's stability.
In 1932 there was a surge in babies named Archie and Bridget in honour of the bridge.
In 1973 French highwire artist Philippe Petit illegally walked a tightrope strung across two bridge pylons, much to the amazement of onlookers.

One of the wonders of our time.

The Queen Mother


With thanks to Paul Hogan and John Cornell, and Lizzette Atkins from Circe Films. Footage courtesy of Network Ten and Cinesound Movietone Productions.

Thank you to our sound, broadcast and film curatorial teams for advice and assistance.

  • Exhibition producer: Beth Taylor
  • Bridge montage: Richard Carter
  • Video: Terry Stuetz, Richard Carter, Michael Kosmider, Andrew Boyer
  • Audio: Bronwyn Murphy
  • Document photography: Tony Rowley, Darren Weinert
  • Clearances: Anna Yates, Bronwyn Dowdall, Naomi Wanner, Jacqui Fine