Distant Worlds: Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s

Distant Worlds: Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s

Photographs by Henry ‘Harry’ Curtis


亨利“哈里” • 柯蒂斯摄影作品

6 May - 16 August 2018 

This is the first time Henry ‘Harry’ Curtis’s photographs have been shown since they were taken over eighty years ago in Shanghai and Hong Kong.  Though he was an amateur photographer, Harry’s images’ bring vividly to life the people and the places he explored as a young man.  Through the camera lens, we share his early adventures and are transported to a past time and Distant Worlds.

The majority of photographs selected for the exhibition come from a series that we believe were of particular interest to Harry with the prints produced during his lifetime. The vintage photographs were produced by him and reflect his professional background as a radiographer.  Through his work in hospitals, he had easy access to darkrooms where he was regularly developing X-ray films.

本次展出是亨利“哈里” • 柯蒂斯80多年前在上海和香港摄影作品的首展。虽然是业余摄影师,哈里将他青年时期所到之处,所见之人生动地展现在自己的摄影中。这也使我们通过他的镜头穿越时间和空间,身临其境。

本次展出的图片大多来自哈里情有独钟,在其生前制作完成的照片。这些老照片的制作反映出他的放射治疗师专业背景— 利用在医院工作之便,用冲洗X光片的暗房冲洗照片。


Harry’s photographs reflect openness and a curiosity about what he saw and who he met.  He found the local people’s lives of genuine interest.  Perhaps, this ease and familiarity with his subjects came from growing up in a working class neighborhood in London.  He wasn’t surprised or alienated by the harsh living conditions, whether his subjects were involved in cooking, cleaning or other daily activities. He was interested in recording their lives without judging their status and this distinguishes his photographs giving them an enduring appeal.

Without family and close friends around him for the first time, photography gave Harry a way of communicating with the local people when he did not speak their language.  Looking at these photographs today they show an optimism that would soon be over shadowed by events leading up to WWII.

Harry Curtis’s photographs allow us to travel with him to experience Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s.  Unlike many others foreigners living in this cities at this time, Harry showed a deep interest in his surroundings and the lives of the local inhabitants.  His photographs avoid clichés and connect us to the richness and diversity of these Distant Worlds.




哈里• 柯蒂斯的照片让我们穿越时光隧道,和他一起回到上世紀 30年代的上海和香港。不同于当时普通外国侨民,哈里对当地人文表现出浓厚兴趣。他拍摄的照片脱去浮华把我们带入那遥远年代中上海和香港两座城市的缤纷和多彩。

We would like to acknowledge Co-Curator Vanessa Shia for her research, writing and help with the selection of photographs and design of the exhibition. Her research about this period benefited greatly from access to the online resources available at the Shanghai  Municipal Archives. I would also like to thank author Peter Hack for his willingness to look at the photographs to help us identify locations in Shanghai.

The Harry Curtis Collection was donated to the Chinese Museum by his daughter in 1997.  We are grateful for her generosity in donating the photographs and negatives, and for supporting the research and production of this exhibition.  

在此感谢联合策展人Vanessa Shia为本次展出所做的调研、写作、图片挑选和设计。上海市档案馆的网上信息为本展提供了宝贵资料。同时,在此感谢作家彼得 •海克为我们识别照片在上海的拍摄地点。



Exhibition Launch Invitation | Grandmothers: Seen through the Eyes of Six Contemporary Chinese Australian Artists

As was often the case in Chinese culture, grandmothers were often caretakers for their grandchildren while the parents went out to work. They were industrious and told stories, cooked meal and sewed clothes. Their emotional handiwork has left an indelible stamp on their grandchildren.

In conjunction with our Multicultural Museum Victoria (MMV) members, the Chinese Museum invites you to embark on a complex and rich journey.  Explore the theme of ‘Grandmothers’ through the work of six contemporary Chinese Australian artists: Nicholas Chin (Co-Curator), Tammy Wong Hulbert, Emilia Johari, Judy Leong, Yinghong Li, and Xiao Yu Bai.


澳华历史博物馆携手Multicultural Museum Victoria(维州多元文化博物馆)成员,邀请您一同踏上一段意味深长的情感之旅,与Nicholas Chin,Tammy Wong Hulbert, Emilia Johari,Judy Leong, Yinghong Li 以及 Xiao Yu Bai 六位现代艺术家一道,共同探索“外婆”这一主题。


You're Invited to

Grandmothers: Seen through the Eyes of
Six Contemporary Chinese Australian Artists
Exhibition Launch

Date: 4 pm Sunday 6 May, 2018
Location: Level 1, Chinese Museum, 22 Cohen Place

Wàipó 外婆 is a common name in Mandarin for grandmother. In China different names are used to signify a maternal or paternal grandmother. The exhibition curator and artists had difficulty agreeing on a name for the exhibition. Wàipó 外婆 was finally selected because it favours the maternal line.

The six participating artists come from very different backgrounds, which reflect the changing demographics of the Chinese diaspora in Australia. Their responses to the exhibition theme of 'Grandmothers' has been equally diverse. Four of the artists have created installation works that incorporate a variety of media including ceramics, fabric and artefacts. Two of the artists have created paintings to explore the theme. The exhibition contains many layers of meaning but finally demonstrates the fundamental role of grandmothers in the lives of their grandchildren and families. We invite you to explore Wàipó 外婆, a powerful tribute to grandmothers everywhere regardless of language and culture.



PROGRAM | 展览活动

【Curator and Artist Talk | 策展人、艺术家对话】 博物馆高级策展人Joyce Agee协同六位艺术家,以及三位华裔外婆,与你畅谈她们的艺术畅想。

【Grandmother and grandchildren event | 这个外婆不一般】 与外婆一同绘画、烹饪,听她讲故事。现场与博物馆一起拍摄属于你们的纪录片。

【Grandmother Stories | 翻开外婆的日记本】 我们将邀请数位华裔外婆,为大家讲述她们有趣的往事。

Grandmothers: Seen through the Eyes of Six Contemporary Chinese Australian Artists will run until the 16th of August 2018.  The Chinese Museum exhibition is part of collaborative project exploring the theme of 'Grandmothers' in different cultures with the Italian Historical Society & Museo Italiano, the Hellenic Museum, the,Islamic Museum of Australia and the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Wàipó 外婆:六名华裔现代艺术家眼中的外婆展期至今年8月16日。本展览为Multicultural Museum Victoria维州多元文化博物馆“Grandmothers”项目的一部分,澳华历史博物馆与其它四所博物馆 Co.As.It Italian Historical Society & Museo Italiano, Hellenic Museum, Islamic Museum of Australia 以及 Jewish Museum of Australia就这一项目合作,展示不同文化背景下的"Grandmothers"。


*Free event. RSVP via this LINK or EMAIL to marketing@chinesemuseum.com.au for free entry.


Principal Partner

Multicultural Museum Victoria is proud to have Gandel Philanthropy, one of the largest private family foundations, coming on board as the Principal Partner, supporting the 'Grandmother' Project exhibitions across all five museums.


Part of the Multicultural Museums Victoria ‘Grandmothers’ project

About Multicultural Museums Victoria
Melbourne is one of the world’s great multicultural cities, where opportunities for discovery abound. Under the MMV banner, we’ve brought together a unique partnership of five ethnic museums to share our rich cultures and present exciting joint programs and events. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, explore five cultures that have helped shape our vibrant and diverse city. Immerse yourself in our dynamic exhibitions, events, talks and workshops and discover endless possibilities for cultural engagement.

Image credit:

Tammy Wong Hulbert, From her installation Two Wongs Making a White, Photograph: Shane Hulbert
Nicholas Chin, "To break the rice bowl: Grandmother" #1, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 60cm 
Judy Leong, The sarong cradle from her installation My Grandmother, Fong Sz Tshe (1890-1962). Photograph: Judy Brandt

Zheng He’s Treasure Hunt

Next challenge? Chinese Museum’s Treasure Hunt is back!

It’s the time of the year to kick this treasure hunt into gear. Warm up your engines and navigate your way through history with the Chinese Museum’s Children’s Treasure Hunt.

Your guide is the famous Chinese navigator Zheng He, who lived during the time of the Ming Dynasty and explored new lands as the admiral of China’s navy.

With a treasure map and Zheng He’s help, you will search the museum for clues, learning lots about history along the way across Chinese Museum’s five floors.

Ask for the Treasure Hunt Map at the Information Desk. If you go back afterwards and have them check your answers, they'll give you a beautiful prize on completion of the treasure hunt.

Price: $5

Languages: English

Han Dynasty: Life Everlasting

People ‧ Ideas ‧ Innovation

While the power of Roman Empire was rising in the West, the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) founded the Eastern civilisation in China through a period of cultural and technological development, economic wealth and territorial expansion. This brand new exhibition showcases this significant period of Chinese history through the Han dynasty’s remarkable people, progressive ideas, and great innovations.

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The exhibition shares stories about people of the Han dynasty, such as the invention of the earliest odometer by a Chinese engineer and when the Han Emperor accidentally gave away one of ancient China’s Four Great Beauties to a tribal chief. Visitors will be introduced to Zhang Qian, the great explorer who founded the Silk Road, and will learn about Confucius’ enduring philosophy.

Han Dynasty Chinese Museum Horse with Rider


Witness the establishment of Silk Road, the expansion of the Empire’s borders, and wonder at a world in miniature featuring pottery figurines and other objects from the superb private collection of Hank Ebes. Explore the Han Emperors’ approach to law and order, the notion of the Mandate of Heaven and the belief in life everlasting.


The Han dynasty heralded the invention of the papermaking process, advanced metal-forging techniques and highly effective agricultural methods. The Han also invented the wheelbarrow, applied negative numbers to mathematical calculations, and created a device that detected earthquakes.



Images: Private collections of Hank Ebes