Picture research

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

Pictorial material in Manuscripts 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:

  • the online catalogue - see the Searching the online catalogue box for search tips. Pictorial material within Manuscripts collections is findable by using either the 'Pictures & photographs' or 'Manuscripts' drop down list. The catalogue records for individual images will have a link back to the 'parent' Manuscripts record.
  • and descriptive lists detailing the contents of large or complex collections. Many of these lists are available online.

Staff can assist with identifying material, access to original materials if appropriate, and obtaining a copy of collection items. You can contact us via our enquiry services.



Ludwig Becker,  Border of the Mud-Desert near Desolation Camp, 1861, watercolour, from Ludwig Becker Sketchbook, Australian Manuscripts Collection, H16486


How to find pictures in Manuscript collections

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.

Finding digitised images

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

Becker Sketchbook


Ludwig Becker, Parasite found in the arm-pit of Gecko no. II, 1860, watercolour & pen on paper, from Ludwig Becker Sketchbook, Australian Manuscripts Collection, H16486, No.27.

Jessie Traill


Jessie Traill, Autograph book, 1900-1920, in collection: Papers of Jessie Constance Alicia Traill,  Australian Manuscripts Collection,, MS 7975/810/3