History

Explore our history through the Library's unrivalled collections.

18th Century and before

Medical botany : containing systematic and general descriptions

All well & good

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

Twenty-first-century notions of wellness have a long lineage.

Mutiny & murder

The horrific tale of the Batavia shipwreck became one of the first true crime bestsellers.

Map of the world
  • Discovery
  • History
  • Partnerships

Voyages of discovery

Europeans had been searching for rich new lands in the Southern Hemisphere long before Captain James Cook arrived on the east coast of Australia in 1770. Explore the State Library's incredible maps, journals, drawings and books.
Vlyssis Aldrovandi patricii Bononiensis Serpentum, et draconu[m] historiae libri duo, 1640, by Vlyssis Aldrovandi

The Art of the Title page

A title page has always told readers what the book is about, but sometimes with an artistic flourish.

The world in a book: the first atlases

Author/s
Maggie Patton

In the Golden Age of Cartography, the first atlases combined the skills of the mapmaker with the ingenuity of the publisher.

A landscape photograph depicting a misty river as viewed through a break in tree cover.

The real secret river: exploring Dyarubbin

Author/s
Grace Karskens

A list of Aboriginal placenames was a trigger for seeking the ‘real secret river’.

An illustration of a social hall, with ladies in dresses accompanied by men in tailcoats.

Power and influence on the Cumberland Plain

Author/s
Elizabeth Ellis

Sydney’s colonial gentry built mansions, held lavish parties and amassed fortunes beyond the imagination of their English relations.

The Sydney Cove Medallion

Author/s
Emma Butler-Nixon

An interest by British arrivals in the quality of Sydney clay led to the making of the Sydney Cove Medallion by noted English ceramicist, Josiah Wedgwood.

An assortment of four endpapers in various styles and colours.

Endgame

Author/s
Maggie Patton

Hundreds of delightful and intriguing endpapers can be found in the State Library of NSW collection.

a127021h.jpg

A Map of Africa, Asia and the East Indies, 1599, by Evert Gijsbertsz

Author/s
Maggie Patton

Throughout the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries decorated wall charts documented recent discoveries and expeditions, served as planning tools for future trading ventures, and attested to the wealth and power of their owners. But few wall charts are as beautifully illustrated as this example from 1599.

Mathew Flinders portrait
  • History
  • People
  • In Depth

Matthew Flinders: placing Australia on the map

Flinders proved that Tasmania was an island, traced the coasts of the Australian continent and was the first person to use ‘Australian’ to describe the inhabitants of this land. He named nothing after himself.

  • Collection item
  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

Magna Carta

The Library holds a rare manuscript version of the 1297 statute of the Magna Carta that was signed by King John at Runnymede.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

The Spanish quest for Terra Australis

Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' quest to discover Terra Australis is documented in a number of rare 'memorials' held by the Library.

  • Discovery
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • In Depth

Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery

Terra Australis Incognita – the unknown southern land. The existence (or not) of this mysterious, mythical place had been puzzled over since it was first hypothesised by the ancient Greeks and Romans

19th Century

Flower patterns

The writer & the archivist

Author/s
Suzanne Falkiner
Meredith Lawn

Rose de Freycinet, a nineteenth-century French woman, stowaway and diarist, unites a writer and an archivist 200 years later.

How to colour in a ghost

Author/s
Rachel Franks

The challenges of bringing a hangman known as ‘Nosey Bob’ back to life.

Burns Philp Pacific cruise advertisement, The Home magazine, 2 January 1936

Reimagining the Pacific

Author/s
Ian Hoskins

While the Pacific has loomed large in Australia’s history, there is a riddle at the heart of our relationship with the region.

Joe Hillel and Daniel Bornstein, The Grubby Urchins, photo supplied

Shanty town

Author/s
Mark Dapin

A recent online boom in sea shanties is a welcome surprise for longtime converts.

View at Oldbury, c 1826, by Charlotte Atkinson

Finding Charlotte

Author/s
Kate Forsyth

Two writers’ search for their mysterious and talented forebear was full of archival riches.

Detail from The Fin de Siècle Newspaper Proprietor, an illustration featured in an 1894 issue of Puck magazine (source: Library of Congress)

The spreading fire of fake news

Author/s
Margaret Van Heekeren
Swamp paperbark trees (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Lachlan Swamp, Centennial Park, Sydney, 2019, photo by Rebecca Hamilton

Deeper history

Author/s
Rebecca Hamilton

Science and history come together in conserving the swamplands of southern Sydney.

Art of Newcastle: convict artists in Aboriginal Country

Author/s
Mark Dunn

An Aboriginal leader’s assistance to the artists of the Newcastle penal settlement led to an unprecedented visual record of the local Indigenous people.

Drawing depicting slaves planting sugar canes.

The first sugar: James Williams’ story

Author/s
Emma Christopher

Sugar and slavery are intertwined in the hidden story of Australia’s early industry.

Young man sits at a wooden desk, surrounded by shelves of boxes and jars.

Reclaiming our story

Author/s
Callum Clayton-Dixon

A contributor to the Library’s Living Language exhibition reflects on Indigenous resistance, survival, and the New England linguicide.

An illustration depicting a lavish gathering of gentlemen.

150 years ago: the Free Public Library

Author/s
Richard Neville

A vital public institution.

Ben Hall, Australian Bushranger

Author/s
Geoff Barker

From 1863 to 1865, over 100 robberies are attributed to Ben Hall and his various associates

Hands holding a lit match to a burning piece of paper.

Mitchell or burn: the Thompson family papers

Author/s
Penny Russell

Sifting through the ‘glorious clutter’ of the Thompson family papers offers a sense of early Sydney life and insights into several significant local families.

Sydney's Bungaree

Bungaree (c 1775–1830) is a remarkable and enigmatic figure in Sydney and Australia’s colonial history. 

The cabin in the woods

Author/s
Dr James Dunk

The madness of a free settler and a convict found expression on the outskirts of the new colony.

Claiming space

Author/s
Dr Breda Carty

The histories of people with disability in Australia can be found if you read ‘against the grain’.

Covers of Sydney Female Refuge Annual Reports
  • Collection item
  • In Depth

Sydney Female Refuge Society, 1848-1925

Author/s
Geoff Barker

A remarkable insight into the world of prostitutes in nineteenth-century Sydney.

  • Acquisitions and rare documents
  • History
  • Quick Reads

The Treaty of Waitangi, 1840

Author/s
Geoff Barker

On 6 February 1840, after discussion with chiefs on the lawns of the British Resident’s house in Waitangi, some 45 chiefs signed a treaty of cession, now known as the Treaty of Waitangi.

Box 04: Glass negatives of Sydney and Manly areas, ca 1890-1910
  • History

Memories on glass: extraordinary images of late 19th and early 20th century Sydney

Author/s
Margot Riley

In the days before digital and film photography, images were often taken on glass. But from the 1880s, development of ready-to-use 'dry plate' negatives and simpler cameras saw the rise of amateur photography.

  • History

An unknown warrior: mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man

Author/s
Ronald Briggs

This mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man is believed to have belonged to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, described as ‘One of the NSW Aborigines befriended by Governor Macquarie’. Part of the Works in Focus series.

Sydney - Capital New South Wales, ca.1800
  • Art and culture

‘A degree of neatness & regularity’: part of the Works in Focus series

Author/s
Richard Neville

Sydney — Capital New South Wales was painted around 1800 — its solid buildings and carefully laid out gardens refute the idea that it was a cesspit of depravity at a time when the city was associated with 'the awful depravity of human nature'.

Toulgra

Toulgra

Author/s
Ronald Briggs

An 1802 portrait of a young Eora man, by French artist Nicolas-Martin Petit, is remarkable for its attention to detail.

Birds eye view of the Port of Sydney

The five bridges

Author/s
Anni Turnbull

From the 1800s, a host of bridges were built over the bays and coves to the west of Sydney. Five became known as the ‘five bridges’: Gladesville Bridge, Fig Tree Bridge, Glebe Island Bridge, Iron Cove Bridge and Pyrmont Bridge.

'Portrait Gallery' c. 1870, from the Earngey album [Photographic scenes and portraits of Fijian natives, Aborigines of Queensland and Clarence River NSW, British Royalty and the Exhibition Building at Prince Alfred park, 1870-1875]
  • Indigenous
  • Quick Reads

Contact prints

Author/s
Nicola Teffer

Portrait of Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung people from the 1870s show how photography shaped race relationships in the nineteenth century. 

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this story contains names and images of deceased people.

Stephen Gapps, photograph
  • History
  • Indigenous
  • In Depth

The Sydney wars

Author/s
Stephen Gapps

Our 2017 Merewether Fellow Stephen Gapps looks at resistance and warfare in colonial Sydney on the anniversary of the Appin Massacre of 1816. 

  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Recipes for country living

Author/s
Mark Dunn

Among the papers of the Scott brothers, who settled in the Hunter Valley in the 1820s, is a manual for frontier living.

Image of Pickwick papers- Charles Dickens
  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Quick Reads

A distant paradise for Dickens

Author/s
Warwick Hirst

Charles Dickens saw Australia as a utopia for the working class — and his wayward sons.

Portrait of Mr Banks
  • History
  • Quick Reads

The book that Joseph Banks burned

Author/s
Matthew Fishburn

An eccentric French nobleman, a letter about Cook’s Endeavour voyage and an enduring bibliographic mystery come together in the Library’s Banks collection. 

Image of penguins from Birds of Australia
  • Collection item
  • Quick Reads

Splendid Species

Author/s
Margot Riley

The Library is delighted to announce the complete digitisation of its renowned "pattern" set of 681 folio-sized plates for  'The Birds of Australia' by John Gould. 

Government House, 1869, by Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor, State Library of New South Wales, PXA 974
  • History
  • Quick Reads

Government House, Domain, Sydney

Author/s
Geoff Barker

By 1834, pressures on land in Sydney Cove compelled Governor Bourke to move Government House.

Old Government House, 1836, J.G. Austin, hand coloured lithograph,
  • History
  • Quick Reads

Old Government House, Sydney Cove

Author/s
Geoff Barker

For 56 years almost every Governor lived in the house on the corner of Phillip and Bridge streets

Chappell Island, illustration by Rev. Brownrigg, Cruise of the Freak, 1872 , State Library of New South Wales
  • Collection item
  • In Depth

The cruise of 'The Freak'

Author/s
Geoff Barker

A missionary voyage through the Bass Strait, Tasmania.

Australasian Photo Review Journal Covers
  • Art and culture
  • Blog

Australasian Photo Review

Author/s
Geoff Barker

 The longevity of the Australasian Photo-Review marks it as the most significant in terms of insights into the development of photography in Australia 1894 through to the last issue which appeared in December 1956. It is now available online.

Hudson Brothers Engineering works Clyde Sydney
  • History
  • Blog

Hudson Brothers Building and Engineering Company

Author/s
Geoff Barker

In 1854, William Henry Hudson ran a small carpentry business from Regent Street, Redfern. 25 years later Hudson Brothers was one of Australia's biggest companies. 

  • History
  • Image
  • In Depth
  • Quick Reads

The Garden Palace

Sydney’s Garden Palace was a magnificent building with a grandeur that dominated the skyline and captivated society from its opening in 1879. Three years later it was destroyed in a devastating fire.

Culunial Life Cover
  • Discovery
  • History
  • Quick Reads

Mysterious leaves from the past: Bray’s Museum of Curios

Author/s
Dr Peter Hobbins
Dr Eleanor Cave
Lynette Cave

Historical discoveries from the Library's collections.

  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Image
  • In Depth

Shipboard: the 19th century emigrant experience

Shipboard brings to life the experience of the long voyage to Australia undertaken by thousands of emigrants in the second half of the 19th century.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Looking east: Darling Point and beyond

Sydney Harbour's natural beauty has always enticed residents to settle on its foreshores.
  • History
  • People
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort

Sydney Harbour's natural beauty has always enticed residents to settle on its foreshores.
  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Religion, church & missions in Australia

This story examines the fascinating history and impact of religious beliefs, practices and institutions on the development of Australian society.
  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Indigenous
  • Quick Reads

Governor Arthur's Proclamation to the Aborigines

Author/s
Dr Rachel Franks

The Proclamation Board (1828-1830) is a four-strip pictogram aimed to communicate that those who committed violent crimes, be they Aboriginal  Australian or colonist, would be punished.

  • Art and culture
  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Crowd source: 1880s Sydney through a hidden camera

Author/s
Margot Riley

These “hidden camera” photos of Sydney street life from the 1880s instantly transport us back in time.

  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Architecture: nineteenth-century Sydney

Convict architect Francis Greenway was convinced of the importance of architecture to the development of early Sydney.

The Tichborne case: a Victorian melodrama

The Tichborne Case has everything; a shipwreck, a massive reward, an English inheritance, a grieving mother and an outlandish butcher from Wagga Wagga.

  • Discovery
  • History
  • In Depth

From Terra Australis to Australia

Discover the original journals, logbooks, letters, paintings and drawings covering the voyage of the First Fleet, the mutiny on the Bounty and Matthew Flinders' journeys.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

The Bowman flag

Our first coat of arms? The first recorded use of the kangaroo and emu supporting a shield is found on the Bowman Flag of 1806.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Eureka! The rush for gold

The gold rushes and the diggers who worked the goldfields are etched into Australian folklore. Follow the story of the people who sought the glittering prize.

  • History
  • Indigenous
  • People
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

The first Indigenous cricket tour of England

In 1868, 13 cricketers from Victoria's western districts sailed from Sydney to become the first Australian team to tour England.

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this story contains names and images of deceased people.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

Convict artists in the time of Governor Macquarie

Many used their art to record and interpret the landscape and people of the early settlement.

Horse and cart struggling through muddy street as men watch
  • History
  • In Depth

The Holtermann Collection: photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia

In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood.

  • Discovery
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • In Depth

The convict experience

In nineteenth century England, the sentence for a variety of crimes was transportation to Australia, a harsh punishment with many convicts never seeing their homeland again.

  • History
  • People
  • In Depth

Felons: villains, blaggards and the mad dentist

With its convict beginnings, it’s hardly surprising that New South Wales has produced more than its fair share of villains.

bushranger banner
  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Blog
  • In Depth

Bushrangers of New South Wales

The stories and songs of the bushrangers shine a light on Australia’s early attitude to crime, family, race and justice.

Sophia O'Brien, 1841 / Maurice Felton

Eternally yours

Author/s
Margot Riley

Buried deep down in the cool darkness of the Library’s framed picture store hangs a beautiful portrait of the young Mrs F O’Brien. It was painted in mid-1841 by naval surgeon-turned artist Maurice Felton from a death mask.

  • History
  • Natural world
  • Quick Reads

Through Darwin's eyes

Author/s
Paul Brunton

Australia played an important role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Photographer Mr Merlin
  • Art and culture

Henry Beaufoy Merlin: Australian showman and photographer

Author/s
Geoff Barker

In 1951 one of Australia’s most significant collections of nineteenth-century photographs was found in a garden shed in Chatswood, Sydney.

Interior, Australian Library and Literary Institution c.1868, watercolour by E. Hawley
  • About the State Library
  • In Depth

Origins of the State Library of New South Wales 1826 - 1869

Author/s
Geoff Barker

Between 1826 and 1869 the Australian Subscription Library was reshaped into a Free Public Library.

20th Century onward

Send for Nellie

Author/s
Alana Valentine

Singer, performer, toast of the town.

The Flying Pieman of Sydney, en pointe

Author/s
Anna Corkhill

Rediscovering costume drawings for a ballet that never was.

Billycart boys

Author/s
Megan Hicks

A researcher finds that the catalogue doesn’t always get it right.

Inside cover of report with picture of two bottled beers and a stemmed glass full of beer, in the background two women sit on sun-terrace.

I feel like a Tooheys ... or two

Author/s
Lisa Murray

Research in the Library’s manuscripts collection can be thirsty work.

Photo of table set with meringues and tea cups

Fit for a queen

Author/s
Phillipa McGuinness

A luncheon inspired by the Queen’s 1954 visit.

Drawing of a man holding a face mask. Text read 'Dare to be yourself. The Motto of the Masters'.

The long history of the power of positive thinking

Author/s
Alexandra Roginski

Self-help enterprises that advise how to be you — but better — aren’t as new as you might think.

Calling the Koori Knockout

Author/s
Brad Cooke

One of the most important sporting and cultural events on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calendar returns.

A pastel portrait of Henry Lawson in profile. Lawson wears a suit and tie and has dark brown hair and a reddish brown bushy moustache. His eyes are slightly downcast as he looks to the right hand side of the frame.

Do we still have time for Henry Lawson?

Author/s
Susan Hunt

It is 100 years since the famous writer and chronicler of bush life died.

The Long March from Wollongong

Author/s
Elizabeth Humphrys

A historian finds rich industrial history, and photography, in the archives.

Eating at the Peking Garden restaurant, located inside the Central Coast Leagues Club, Gosford. Photo by Joy Lai

Sweet and sour

Author/s
Annie Tong

Steamed, stir-fried or roasted, Chinese food in Australia has a long and evolving history.

When newspapers took over Australian television

Author/s
Sally Young

 The machinations behind the first Australian television licences.

The Armenian community in Sydney, particularly schools and church ceremonies, 1989–95, photo by Teny Aghamalian

Language that binds

Author/s
Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Images and interviews from linguistically diverse communities reflect the Library’s goal of collecting history as it happens.

Detail from Image 8, Item 24: George Gittoes art diary, ca. April 2009-ca. December 2009

War diaries of George Gittoes

Author/s
Louise Denoon

A selection of  visual diaries of Australian artist George Gittoes, covering the period between 2001 and 2014, have been recently digitised by the Library.

'Demonstrations were our internet'

Author/s
Ashleigh Synnott

Fifty years after the first gay rights organisation was founded in NSW, the activism of the 1970s still resonates.

The Gatherings Order 

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

A behind the scenes look at the new podcast series exploring the last great influenza pandemic in 1919.

Soundings - Some Views on Religious Education in South Australia

Chalk and church 

Author/s
Stephen Jackson

The place of religious instruction in public schools has long been controversial. 

‘Unprecedented’: the Library through two pandemics

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

The extraordinary events of the past few months are unprecedented in our lifetimes, but the response to the Covid-19 pandemic contains echoes of the 1918–19 influenza outbreak. The Library is one of many institutions following the lead of our forebears.

Letters by Muriel Knox Doherty, August-October, 1945

Letters from Bergen-Belsen

Author/s
Louise Anemaat

Australian nurse Muriel Knox Doherty recorded her experiences and insights after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

Collection of condolence letters.

Peace with pestilence: the 1918–19 influenza

Author/s
Alison Wishart

After four years of war, ‘normal life’ ceased again in early 1919 as an influenza epidemic spread through the country.

A nice little business: NSW’s circulating libraries

Author/s
Jane Gibian

Part of daily life in the mid twentieth century, circulating libraries have left charming traces.

Head portrait of a woman in military uniform, in six burst shots.

Betty Archdale: leading the way

Author/s
Margot Riley

The daughter of a courageous suffragette, Betty Archdale excelled in several fields that rarely admitted women.

A composite image of photos, certificates, and documents.

Ancestry tree: a family’s escape from genocide

Author/s
Ashley Kalagian Blunt

A collection of papers traces one family’s escape from the Armenian genocide.

A woman stands in front of a wall of Vietnamese art posters, smiling.

Mythical country: Vietnam in 1950s posters

Author/s
Sheila Ngoc Pham

Looking through Vietnamese art posters collected in the 1950s elicits complicated feelings all these years later.

A sepia photograph of a woman framed by dried wattle sprig and a lock of hair.

Daidee and Eric: the first Mrs Dark

Author/s
Margo Beasley

Intimate letters from 100 years ago paint a detailed self-portrait of a young Australian woman.

Armidale Teachers College, September 1937

The Library at war: 1939–1943

Author/s
Andrew Tink

While the Nazis had conquered Western Europe in 1940 and threatened Britain’s very existence, the State Library had continued on much as it had before the war.

The Redfern All Blacks in 1946

Author/s
Ronald Briggs, Curator, Research and Discovery

We've recently digitised a remarkable series of  photos showing players from the Redfern All Blacks rugby league team taken at Redfern Oval in 1946.

A black and white photograph of an older woman standing next to a hut, resting her hand on the banister.

Buddhist modernism

Author/s
Peggy James

Bushwalker, feminist and pacifist Marie Byles helped to shape Buddhism in Australia.

Dead Central: the Devonshire Street cemetery

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

Established in 1820, this cemetery became the final resting place for many Sydney-siders throughout the 19th century. The land was finally cleared in 1901 to make way for Sydney's new Central Station.

River dreams

Author/s
Ian Tyrrell

Bold plans to transform the Cooks River in Sydney are reflected in the Library's collection.

Thailand, 1943-1945, S. Walker, watercolour, State Library of New South Wales, MLMSS 4234

Arthur Moon, prisoner of war, 1943

Author/s
Geoff Barker

Records of life in a Japanese POW camp, buried in 1943.

A sepia photograph of a boy wearing an oversized army cap, standing and saluting.

Quick march! The children of World War I

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

To mark the centenary of the peace year, 1919, we take an intimate look at the lives of children during the ‘war to end all wars’.

A family posed for a photo in a park at sundown.

Stories from our migrant and refugee communities

The interviews delve into the personal stories of recently arrived migrants and their new lives in New South Wales, starting from birth and childhood and covering the (often harrowing) reasons they were compelled to leave their homes and seek safety in another country.

An old magazine cover, featuring a woman wearing a swimsuit and a cone-shaped, bamboo hat and the headline: "Bigameist confesses 'I had six wives'".
  • Art and culture

Working for the Weekend

Author/s
Ryan Cropp

Donald Horne’s unlikely editorship of the mass-market Weekend magazine was a crucial stage in the Lucky Country author’s development as a public intellectual.

vanessa barry

Underground albums

Author/s
Vanessa Berry

The optimism of a city imagining its future is captured in photographs, plans and sketches.

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  • History

Armistice and peace: 'now that the war is over we realise what we’ve been through'

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

‘The Armistice – agreeing to cease hostilities’ was signed between Germany, France and Britain at 5 am on the morning of 11 November.

c27120_0002_c.jpg
  • Art and culture

Americans on campus: part of the Works in Focus series

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

Sydney Teacher’s College was co-located on the grounds of Sydney University where American Military Police units were billeted, describing the impact of the Americans on campus. Part of the Works in Focus series.

a9573001h.jpg
  • History

Internee collections: diaries of ‘enemy aliens’

Author/s
Anna Corkhill

During the First World War nearly 7000 ‘enemy aliens’, mainly of German and Austro-Hungarian origin, were interned in camps in Australia. The Library’s collection of papers of ‘enemy aliens’ interned in Australia during WW1 contains around 40 handwritten diaries written by internees.

The Bridge website
  • History
  • In Depth

The Bridge: the arch that cut the sky

The journey to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge would take almost 100 years. In this 5-part series, travel through history to experience the story of realising a city’s dream. 

  • History
  • Quick Reads

Australia and the bomb

Author/s
Kyle Harvey

Peace activism in Australia has a rich and complex history.

Knitting socks for World War I soldiers - Temora, NSW
  • History

Woollen comforts from home

It is estimated that over one million pairs of socks were knitted by Australian women and children during the war. 

  • History
  • Quick Reads

Leaving home

It was a six-week journey by sea from Australia to Egypt and after the excitement of enlistment, training and farewells some feelings of boredom were inevitable among the troops. 

  • History
  • Quick Reads

Mapping the war

The Library holds hundreds of maps documenting the progress of the war. 

Victoria cross
  • History

Jackson and the Paper VC

In Sydney in 1918 a shy, one-armed man from the tiny town of Gunbar was selling kisses for 5 shillings each.

Frank Hurley photo
  • History
  • In Depth

Antarcticans and the war

Author/s
Steve Martin

Adventure, patriotism, or the call of friendship: many people who had experience in Antarctic exploration volunteered to serve in the World War I.

  • History
  • Quick Reads

George Bell, prisoner of war

George Bell was a bank officer from Port Headland, Western Australia.

Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17
  • History
  • Quick Reads

3rd Australian General Hospital

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

Albert William Savage was a professional photographer from Moore Park in Sydney. 

  • History

Wesley Choat, prisoner of war

Wesley Choat and his two brothers enlisted in 1915.

  • History
  • Quick Reads

The Western Front

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

They began arriving in France in late spring 1916. 

  • History
  • People
  • In Depth

Miles Franklin

Author/s
Rachel Franks

‘Heaven could be no more magical and mystical than unspoiled Australia' - the brilliant career of Miles Franklin.

  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Quick Reads

From protest to party

Author/s
Anni Turnbull

The year 2018 marks the 40th anniversary since the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which started as a gay rights protest parade.

Maria Linders’ family photographs
  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Family business

Author/s
Tanya Evans

The continuing boom in family history research is having a far-reaching impact on how people understand themselves and the world. 

Image of Florence Taylor, Editor, Building magazine
  • Art and culture
  • Collection item
  • Quick Reads

How Australia builds

Author/s
Margot Riley

The recently digitised Building magazine is a trove of information about twentieth century construction. 

Image of letters
  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Love letters

Author/s
Alison Wishart

In the current era of instant digital communication, letters between long-distance lovers have a particular poignancy.

Photo of Queen Elizabeth
  • Collection item
  • People
  • Quick Reads

The 1954 Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth II

Author/s
Alison Wishart

When this 27 year old sailed into Sydney harbour on 3 February 1954, she practically stopped the nation. 

Photo of Snelling’s concept perspective for the Keith Smith House, Mosman (1955–1958), published on the cover of Architecture and Arts magazine, February 1956
  • Art and culture
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Douglas Snelling: Pan-Pacific modernist

Author/s
Davina Jackson

Stylish and talented architect-designer Douglas Snelling introduced modern American living styles to aspirational Sydneysiders after the Second World War.

Poster of the first World War
  • History

Mother Country

Author/s
Brendan Atkins

A century ago most Australians were swept up in the second conscription plebiscite of December 1917.

Decoration and Glass, Published by Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd, Dowling Street waterloo, NSW, Australia, 1 July, 1936
  • Art and culture
  • Blog

Decoration and Glass magazine

Author/s
Sarah Morley

Decoration and Glass, a magazine for home builders, architects and decorators has been digitised in colour as part of the Library’s Digital Excellence Program. 

Chisholm addressing a class of smiling schoolgirls in the bush
  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Alec Chisholm: bush naturalist and benign nationalist

Author/s
Russell McGregor

Alec Chisholm (1890–1977) was once famous in Australia. Although that’s no longer so, he’s a man worth remembering.

  • History
  • Quick Reads

Red Cross under the Southern Cross

Author/s
Melanie Oppenheimer

The Australian Red Cross NSW Division archive spans over 100 years of humanitarian aid.

Ulladulla snapper fisherman, 1959, by Jeff Carter, PXD 1070
  • History
  • Quick Reads

Record catch: 80 years of east coast fishing

Author/s
Dr Ruth Thurstan

Merging history and science, a Library fellowship tracked 80 years of fishing off the east coast of Australia.

The life and lens of photographer George Caddy
  • Art and culture
  • In Depth

Shutterbug Jitterbug Bondi Visionary

The photographs of George Caddy are an astonishing modernist record of Bondi Beach and its people during a remarkable era. 

Yoga class at Ballina, Roger Marchant, c. 1975-1985
  • Art and culture
  • History
  • People

Under the Rainbow

The 1970s were a transformative time for northern New South Wales, especially in the regional town of Nimbin.  The 1973 Aquarius Festival changed the small country town and the surrounding region forever.

A 60s Kodak colour slide showing people walking down a path with flower beds on either side.
  • Art and culture
  • Quick Reads

Slide show

Author/s
Richard Aitken

The quirky and obscure Hallams slide collection is a curator’s dream, revealing ordinary Australian gardens in the 1960s and 70s.

A photograph of a garden of low bushes with mountains in the distance.
  • Current exhibition
  • Image

The modern garden

Author/s
Howard Tanner

Outstanding gardens are revealed by leading photographers in a new exhibition.

  • Story
  • Art and culture
  • Partnerships
  • In Depth

French in Australia

The history of the French in Australia dates from the arrival of the La Perouse expedition at Botany Bay in January 1788, just days after the landing of the First Fleet.

  • Discovery
  • Natural world
  • Partnerships
  • Image
  • In Depth

Antarctica: modern adventures

Like many other nations, Australia was looking to the future after the turmoil of the Second World War. Several countries saw Antarctica as a potential source of territory, fishing and mineral resources.

  • Discovery
  • History
  • Natural world
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Early Antarctic adventures

The subject of much speculation, the idea of an unknown southern land began with the ancient Greeks.

  • Art and culture
  • Image
  • In Depth

Architecture: arrival of modernism

Architectural modernism was a revolutionary rejection of past styles and the use of architectural ornament.

Hannah Middleton and Shirley Warin Gilgi at Daguragu, c. 1970, photographer unknown
  • History
  • Indigenous
  • In Depth

Big things grow: the Gurindji’s struggle for land rights

Author/s
Christine Jennett

The Gurindji’s struggle sparked a national network of support organisations and became a symbol of the land rights movement.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Looking north: Sydney's Upper North Shore

The Upper North Shore is one of the jewels of Sydney. Follow the development of this region from isolated bush and farmland to a prosperous residential area.
  • Art and culture
  • Partnerships
  • Image
  • In Depth

Photography - Sydney exposed

Photography - Sydney exposed takes the first step in providing an online gateway to thousands of images highlighting the history and changing nature of Sydney, Australia's first and largest metropolis.

  • Story
black and white image of the Slavin family lighting candles for Hanukkahh
  • People
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Celebration: Jewish community photographs

Author/s
Anni Turnbull

The images from this collection take us into the lives of a Sydney community, revealing its religious and community events.

c027690051.jpg
  • Art and culture
  • History
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Papua New Guinea (PNG): Forty years of independence

Although European navigators visited and explored the Papua New Guinea islands for 170 years, little was known of the Papua New Guinea inhabitants until the late 19th century.
Michael and Jacko French by Matthew Riley
  • Art and culture
  • Indigenous
  • People
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Michael Riley's A Common Place: Portraits of Moree Murries

A Common Place displays 15 dramatic portraits of Moree Murries taken by Michael Riley, one of Australia’s leading Indigenous contemporary artists.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Aviation in Australia

Aviation in Australia traces the history of flight from its infancy through to the twentieth century. 

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

Australian Jewish community and culture

The Jewish community in Australia has made a significant contribution to the development of Australian society and culture since the establishment of the colony in 1788. 

  • History
  • Natural world
  • People
  • In Depth

Australian agricultural and rural life

Images of the changing face of Australia’s rural landscape.

Hope you're still going strong! [tennis] c. 1916, colour postcard by May Gibbs
  • Art and culture
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Image
  • In Depth

The story of May Gibbs

May Gibbs, author, illustrator and cartoonist, has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fairytale landscapes.

  • Art and culture
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • In Depth

Harry Seidler collection

Designs and photographs from Australia's best known modernist architect.

Emily Chambers on ski slopes
  • Collection item
  • Quick Reads

Hitting the slopes: a young woman’s alpine adventure in the 1930s

Author/s
Margot Riley

Thoroughly modern Miss Emily Chambers of Burwood, NSW, was always eager to try the latest fad.

  • Art and culture
  • History
  • Image
  • Quick Reads

Found in the trenches

In the trenches of Gallipoli several Australian soldiers made a startling archelogical discovery.

Photograph in black and white of a man wearing a suit
  • Indigenous
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

David Unaipon

A great inventor, an Indigenous rights advocate and Australia's first published Aboriginal writer.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

The Sydney Royal Easter Show

Formed to encourage and promote the future of agriculture in the colony.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • Quick Reads

Women at the wicket

"I thought they’d bowl lobs, but by Jove, they can play."

Drawing of harbour foreshore with people around a fire, a canoe in the foreground.
  • Indigenous
  • People
  • Image

Eora: Indigenous Sydney before European settlement

Delve deep into the stories of Indigenous Sydney before European settlement, created through a close and innovative interrogation of the European records of early colonisation.

  • History
  • Partnerships
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Bodyline cricket series, 1932-33

The controversial cricket series where England introduced an aggressive bowling style.

  • Art and culture
  • People
  • In Depth

Henry Lawson: poet of the people

A writer wrote of the hearts of men, and he followed their tracks afar;

For his was a spirit that forced his pen to write of the things that are.

Several men in white coats sketching a young woman modelling
  • Art and culture
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Architect of the screen: Eric Thompson as architect, artist and filmmaker

Author/s
Erica Aronsten

Eric Thompson’s career as an architect, artist and filmmaker highlights the close connection between architecture and design in the development of the film industry.

  • Discovery
  • Natural world
  • Partnerships
  • Image
  • In Depth

Antarctica: Frank Hurley

As the official photographer on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, Frank Hurley provided a remarkable record of the dangers and heroism of Antarctic exploration in the early twentieth century.

Photograph of leather bound journals and diaries
  • History
  • People
  • Quick Reads

Writing at Gallipoli

Author/s
Elise Edmonds

First hand accounts of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

Manifeste du Surrealisme [and] Poisson Soluble, Lettre aux voyantes, by Andre Breton, Paris, Simon Kra, 1929
  • Art and culture
  • Blog

Andre Breton: early Surrealist publications

Author/s
Geoff Barker

Between 1919 and 1930  Andre Breton published experimental texts that defined the Surrealist movement.