Picture research

Guide to finding photographs, illustrations and other images in the State Library of Victoria's collections

Searching the online catalogue for pictures

The online catalogue includes links to more than 300,000 digitised images from the Library's collections. Not all of these come from the Pictures Collection. There is also digitised illustrative material from the Australian Manuscripts Collection, selected rare books and the Arts Collection.

The easiest way to find a picture is to:

  • navigate to the catalogue
  • use the drop down list next to the search box to limit your search to Pictures & photographs only 
  • enter the search terms for the subject/person of interest 
  • ensure the search is set to using all of my search words and that you are searching anywhere in the record

See this search on Nellie Melba. From the search results, click on the title for the brief catalogue record. Scroll to the bottom of the screen for the full catalogue details of the image. Click on View image below the brief catalogue record for full view of the image.

To search across image holdings at all Australian libraries and other institutions (including the State Library Victoria) you can try the Trove database.

Australiana index

Check The Australiana index for references to places, events and people in published sources such as newspapers, journals and some books.

Since 1997, records have been entered directly online. An earlier card index is also available. Please enquire via Ask a Librarian.

Looking for out of copyright images?


Explore our copyright-free images

The copyright-free image collection brings together almost 200,000 historical images from the Library’s collections. The images are out of copyright and available as high resolution TIFF downloads. Included are advertising posters, vintage postcards, colour and black and white photographs showing people at work and leisure, streetscapes, gardens, fashion, food and now including maps and architectural drawings.

This Image Pool does not include images from multipage sets such as photo albums, or illustrations from digitised books. To see our full image collection, search the Catalogue.

Digitised collections

Through its digitisation program the Library has converted many original heritage items into digital objects that can be accessed by users online in a variety of ways.

Items include printed material, photographs, manuscripts, maps, sheet music, newspapers, audio recordings and more.

Many rare pamphlets have been digitised, and can be a rich source of illustrations.

We have also digitised many posters encompassing a wide range of subjects, including the antinuclear movement, magicians and Melbourne theatres. Of note are the following collections:

The collections listed below focus on Victorian people and places:


Carol Porter, Some men will do anything, 1993, silkscreen poster, Pictures Collection, H94.112/28

Newspaper photograph collections

We hold a number of collections of newspaper photographs, many of which are digitised and searchable.

You can browse the Argus newspaper collection in Collection Discovery. This includes over 18.000 photographs, mostly related to WW1 and WW2.

The Herald & Weekly Times Limited portrait collection contains over 4000 photographs from the 1900s up to the 1970s.

This photo from the Herald and Weekly Times collection shows actor Ken Takakura filming the Australian shot Japanese western The Drifting Avenger:

Japanese man on horse

Herald and Weekly Times, Ken Takakura [Japanese star of western style movies], ca. 1968, photograph, Pictures Collection, H38849/5744

Contemporary photography

Much of the Library’s contemporary documentary photography has been digitised.

Here are a few photographers you can browse:

Georgia Metaxas
Ian Hill
Sue Ford
Viva Gibb
Jesse Marlow
Ian Kenins


Ian Hill, Plastic lining in Burnley Tunnel prior to pouring of concrete segments March 1998, 1998, photograph, Pictures Collection, H99.20/17

Image galleries

The image galleries and interactives on our website are another source of images.

Collections like the Rennie Ellis collection, are highlighted and exhibitions and themed image galleries are explored, such as Melbourne Cup and Anzac Spirit.