18th Century and before

Power and influence on the Cumberland Plain

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

The Sydney Cove Medallion

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.


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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

19th Century

Art of Newcastle: convict artists in Aboriginal Country

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

The first sugar: James Williams’ story

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

Reclaiming our story

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

150 years ago: the Free Public Library

A vital public institution.

Ben Hall, Australian Bushranger

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

Mitchell or burn: the Thompson family papers

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. 

20th Century onward

Do we still have time for Henry Lawson?

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

The Long March from Wollongong

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

Sweet and sour

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

When newspapers took over Australian television

 The machinations behind the first Australian television licences.

Language that binds

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

War diaries of George Gittoes

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'

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