Guide to finding photographs, illustrations and other images in the State Library of Victoria's collections
The Library’s Australian Manuscripts Collection consists of original works that provide written and visual documentation of the history of Australia and its people.
Many collections within the Australian Manuscripts Collection contain accompanying visual material. This may be in the form of photographs, sketchbooks, paintings, drawings, architectural drawings, and printed ephemera, such as posters, postcards, greeting cards and maps. Objects associated with particular people whose papers the Library holds - such as textiles (clothing), for example - also form part of some collections. As such, the Manuscripts Collection is a vast and rich source of images for the picture researcher.
There are two major resources to assist researchers:
Ludwig Becker, Border of the Mud-Desert near Desolation Camp, 1861, watercolour, from Ludwig Becker Sketchbook, Australian Manuscripts Collection, H16486
If you are interested in particular mediums, then search the medium in the Manuscripts tab. For example a search for the phrase photograph* (use * at the end of the term to retrieve singular and plural use of the word) will result in a list of collections which contain photographs. A similar strategy can be used for 'poster*, 'drawing*', 'sketchbook*' and so on.
If you are researching a particular subject area, such as 19th Century theatre in Victoria, or the Museum of Modern Art at Heide, then browsing the digitised finding aids of collections like the Reed Papers (material about Heide) or the Coppin Collection (material about theatre), for photographs, posters and other pictorial content will be useful.
Staff can assist with identifying material or can process a deferred enquiry directed to the Manuscripts staff. Or you can make an enquiry using our enquiry services.
Digitised pictorial material that comes from larger manuscript collections, is linked to its 'parent' collection on the catalogue. You can find digitised items by clicking on 'Other items in this Collection' in 'Other Links' at the end of the detailed catalogue record. You can link back to the parent manuscript record by clicking on 'Collection level record' at the bottom of the detailed catalogue record.
Some examples of digitised collections include:
In cases where the images are out of copyright and have been digitised by the Library, it is possible to download free, high resolution TIFF files. For details on how to do this see "Looking for images available as high resolution download?" in the Our Images Online section of this guide.
The online catalogue is a work in progress. More and new collections are added regularly.
T.W. Cameron, Bas-relief on the Burke & Wills statue [by Charles Summers] (Rescue of sole survivor John King), 1898-1906, lantern slide, Australian Manuscripts Collection, MS13867/56
The Library is closed from December 25 to January 3. From January 4 2021 we will be partially open to pre-booked and walk-up visitors and our Ask A Librarian service will resume for assistance with your research inquiries online and over the phone.