Using our digital photographic collections

Every organisation has its own remit for collecting. The State Library exists in order to support and encourage research, debate, conversation, inspiration, learning and enjoyment. We do this by collecting and preserving materials and evidence relating to our place in the world and making them accessible to all.

The Library has a long history of collecting digital photographs, as well as digitising physical collections including photographic prints and negatives. Here are a few examples of how our born-digital and digitised photographs are being used.

Art

Royal Hotel, the only surviving hotel from the gold rush in Hill End, features projection of patrons at the former All Nations Hotel (Holtermann image), with the Royal Hotel barman Peter Sparks (right), 16 April 2016 / photograph by Peter Solness

Royal Hotel, the only surviving hotel from the gold rush in Hill End, features projection of patrons at the former All Nations Hotel (Holtermann image), with the Royal Hotel barman Peter Sparks (right), 16 April 2016 / photograph by Peter Solness

Photographer Peter Solness delved into the historic Holtermann Collection of glass plate negatives, taken by colonial photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss in the 1870s, now housed in and digitised by the State Library. Solness set out night after night with a projector, camera, tripod and torch, projecting images from the collection onto a range of locations in the town of Hill End. Some of the projections relate directly to the locations of the photographs themselves (such as the former butcher being projected onto the butcher shop), but others are chosen for their artistic value. Solness says that ‘as an artist, I was primarily interested in the emotional response I was feeling as I brought the faces of these former Hill End residents back into a contemporary space. It’s a very ghostly place’ (Outback Magazine issue 124, April/May 2019). The Library has acquired six photographs from the series which have recently been made available online.  

Learning

Aerial photograph of Gerroa, New South Wales, 18 April 2004 by Daryl Jones

Aerial photograph of Gerroa, New South Wales, 18 April 2004 by Daryl Jones

One of our earliest born-digital photographic acquisitions is from 2006 — a collection of aerial photographs of coastal towns in New South Wales by photographer Daryl Jones. These photographs have been used by the Library to develop geography learning activities for primary school students covering topics such as visiting places, investigating how the natural environment influences people and places, and climate. This collection is now available online in its entirety. 

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