VIDEO: Artefacts at Newcastle Art Gallery

FINAL preparations were under way at Newcastle Art Gallery yesterday for tonight's opening of what has been described as one of the most important exhibits to ever grace the venue.

A sell-out crowd of more than 450 people is expected for the unveiling of the Treasures of Newcastle from the Macquarie era exhibit.

Pooling resources of the NSW State Library and other institutions with the Newcastle Art Gallery's own collection, the exhibit is a rare opportunity to see the normally scattered artworks and artefacts together under the one roof.

There is a letter written by Governor Macquarie's own hand, some of the first European perspectives on the area's indigenous people, and a rare opportunity to see the four known oil paintings by famed convict artist Joseph Lycett hanging side by side for the first time.

The star attraction is the Macquarie Chest. Created in Newcastle around 1818, the exhibit marks the first time the chest has returned to the city in almost 200 years.

Gallery curator Sarah Johnson said: "It's an opportunity to see works that haven't been seen side by side for almost 200 years."

The exhibition comes as controversy continues over funding for the gallery's redevelopment.

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