Psychology Museum

Phrenological Bust approved by Dr. Spurzheim circa 1832

The oldest and largest psychology collection in Australia, known as the Psychology
Museum, is held at the School of Psychology at The University of Sydney. Psychology was first formally taught at Sydney from the 1880s as part of Philosophy, and from 1921 in a semi-autonomous Department of Psychology. The collection comprises over a thousand early laboratory and mental testing artefacts, with the addition of documentary, photographic and audio-visual materials.

Chronoscope  and Memory Drum
Francis Anderson

First Professor of Philosophy at The University of Sydney.

Scottish born Francis Anderson occupied the Chair from 1890 to 1921, introducing modern psychological topics with his lectures on Logic and Mental Philosophy in the 1890’S (Sketch from The Arts Journal, 1921).

Punch, 1971

Public perceptions of Psychology have not always corresponded with the psychologist's own vision.

"I'm getting him conditioned beautifully - every time I run through the maze, he throws me a bit of cheese."

Cartoon from "Punch", 1971, Toronto Sun Syndicate.


In 2004 the School’s accommodation in the MacCallum and Brennan Buildings, adjacent to the Main Quadrangle, was extensively refurbished. The bulk of the Museum collection remains in temporary storage pending further refurbishment of the Griffith Taylor Building. Currently a small selection of items is on display in three cabinets on levels 3 and 4 of the Brennan MacCallum complex – The beginnings of mental testing, Early aptitude testing, Measuring reaction times and sensory discrimination in the first psychology laboratories.

The two first photos below show the current displays and the last photo is from a past display.

Current display on level 4 Brennan MacCallum Building
Current display on level 3 Brennan MacCallum Building
Past Display

Work in Progress

Currently the academics responsible for the collection are undertaking an extensive review of the holdings, combining the objectives of updating the catalogue, examining long-term storage issues and maximizing accessibility. Long-term goals are maintaining this unique and invaluable resource for purposes of teaching, display and research.

The corridor displays are the prime adjunct for undergraduate education. In addition items which are held in replicate can be made available for class demonstration, while photographs of more valuable or fragile pieces will be available for use in lectures or tutorials.

Forthcoming Displays

The artefacts represent an enormous range of areas of interest to past psychologists. We propose to mount a changing series of displays, based in part on historical themes that emerge as we proceed with the sorting of items, and in part on suggestions from colleagues for teaching aids for specific courses. Showcase themes in mind for the immediate future are progressive stages of projective testing, early methods of detecting brain damage and past techniques for the measurement and analysis of colour vision.

Forthcoming display on projective tests will feature tools developed for a range of categories of subjects including children and the blind.

The adventures of Blacky
The Blacky Picture

The Blacky Pictures (1950). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Psychodynamic Instruments

We are also working on a web display of historical cartoons to serve as an adjunct to courses in History and Philosophy of Psychology. The University of Sydney Psychology Museum houses a large collection of such cartoons, the product of a comprehensive search of the major satirical periodical literature in Britain and the U.S. across 140 years from 1841 until 1980.