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,和他一起回到上世纪 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。



Wàipó 外婆

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

Wàipó 外婆:六名华裔现代艺术家眼中的外婆

Part of the Multicultural Museums Victoria ‘Grandmothers’ project

6 May - 16 August 2018

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. This exhibition will explore the larger universal notion of the feminine, timeless and boundless connecting us all regardless of different languages and diverse cultures.

Wàipó  外婆 at the Chinese Museum, chronicles the traditions and changing roles of grandmothers in China and in Australia through specially commissioned artworks by Nicholas Chin, Emilia Johari, Yinghong Li, Tammy Wong Hulbert, Judy Leong and Xiao Yu Bai. It explores how these artists’ individual histories and intimate relationships were impacted after they or their family immigrated, and the traditional roles and different cultural influences from China to Malaysia and Australia.

Principal Partner: Gandel Philanthropy

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.

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.

Producer, director, editor: Judy Brandt
Director of photography, culture consultant, translation: Hannah Yun
Special Acknowledgement: Joyce Agee


  • Judy Leong completed her Master of Fine Arts at RMIT University in 2010. She also has a BA Fine Arts, a Diploma of Visual Arts and a Diploma of Stitch and Studio Textile. She is a practicing artist and also teaches textile art and patchwork from a studio in Melbourne.

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