Applications closed

About the Fellowship

The Ross Steele AM Fellowship supports research into the State Library of NSW pictorial collections. It was inaugurated in 2019 with the support of Ross Steele AM. The Library has been collecting pictorial material since the 1880s, but the David Scott Mitchell Bequest of 1907 and the generosity of Sir William Dixson underpinned the compilation of the some of the largest pictorial collections in the country.

The Library’s pictorial collections are principally documentary, and their acquisition has operated in a market and context very different to fine art images. The broad history of the compilation of these collections is not well understood. Initially pictures were purchased to illustrate major historical landscapes, events and people, often with a focus on European colonisation. The evolution of the photographic image significantly changed the documentary impetus, however, and we now collect much more broadly, with an understanding that the full diversity of Australian life and culture needs to be recorded. In their diversity of format and their extent, these are some of the most significant and largest pictorial collections in Australia.

Exhibition galleries, State Library of New South Wales

This Fellowship asks the successful applicant to investigate key images or image collections (applications focusing on non-photographic media will be preferred by the judges), underpinned by the context of their particular acquisition and exhibition histories. Understanding the history of their acquisition and description is a vital first step in explaining why these collections are so important, and will be fundamental to further publications about them.

The Fellow will be given access to the Library’s records and object files about these artworks.

It is expected that Ross Steele AM Fellows will:

  • be experienced researchers who are able to demonstrate a successful record of scholarship, publications and research outcomes
  • be able to demonstrate a high-level capacity to promote their work through a variety of media channels in collaboration with the State Library
  • agree that the Fellowship is a priority during their tenure and that a concentrated period of effort will be made to deliver the Fellowship
  • actively promote the research undertaken during their tenure
  • make a presentation about the project at the conclusion of the Fellowship
  • ensure any publications, outcomes or media coverage which result from the Fellowship prominently acknowledge the support of the State Library of NSW and the Fellowship
  • contribute to State Library of NSW print and online publications
  • submit to the Mitchell Librarian a four-page summary of their completed project, copies of any research outcomes (presentations and publications) and a bibliography
  • acquit their Fellowship in a timely manner.
Past Fellows


Ms Deborah Beck for her project: Exposed and Composed: Artists’ models in Australia. 


Emeritus Professor Penny Russell, for her project: John Rae’s Sydney: Art in context.


Johanna Ellersdorfer, for her project: The paintings of Maurice Felton: A technical study of paintings and artistic networks in early colonial Sydney.


Professor Robert Phiddian, for his project: A Major Study of Editorial Cartoons, 1918-50.

2020 (Inaugural)

Dr David Hansen, for his project: Pictures in the Collections of the State Library of New South Wales.