Picture research

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

About the Library's Pictures Collection

The Library’s Pictures Collection consists of original works that provide visual documentation of the history of Australia and its people with a special emphasis on Victoria.

Illustrations are held in many forms: oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural drawings and printed ephemera, such as posters, postcards, greeting cards, tickets, menus and invitations.

The Collection has two major resources to assist researchers. To search comprehensively you will need to check each source:

  •  the online pictures catalogue - see the Searching the online catalogue box for search tips
  • a card index which serves as a catalogue (for the part of the Collection which is not catalogued online), and descriptive lists detailing the contents of large or complex collections

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.

The online catalogue is a work in progress. More and new collections are added daily.

Books about the Pictures Collection

If you are interested in the history of the Pictures Collection in particular, and the Library's growth and collection building in general, there are a number of books - some scholarly and others more accessible - which present and discuss items and collections of significance and interest:

Downer, Christine, Victorian vision, 1834 onwards: images and records from the National Gallery of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria
Includes essays covering the development of the National Gallery of Victoria and the Library's Pictures collections.

Galbally, Ann, The First collections: the Public Library and the National Gallery of Victoria in the 1850's and the 1860s: University Gallery, the University of Melbourne Museum of Art 14 May - 15 July 1992
A history of collecting by the NGV and State Library of Victoria.

Galimany, Michael D., The Cowen Gallery catalogue
A comprehensive guide to the Library's Cowen Gallery.

Glover, Anne, Victorian treasures from the La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria
A pictorial work featuring highlights of Victorian material held in the Picture Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection and Map Collection.

Jeffery, Fiona, History of the State Library of Victoria: a select bibliography
Lists sources covering the history of the Library's collection-building and administration.

Roberts, Bev, Treasures of the State Library of Victoria
This book presents rarely seen photographs, prints, publications, letters, maps and memorabilia from the Library's collections.

State Library of Victoria, Art of the collection
Illustrations from the State Library of Victoria's Pictures Collection which document the history of Victoria and its people.

The La Trobe Journal
Further information on works in the collection can also be found in articles from this journal.

SLV exhibitions

Permanent exhibitions feature pictorial works from the Library's collections. The changing face of Victoria applies a thematic arrangement of images from the Library’s collection, while The Cowen Gallery surveys our collection of oil paintings.

Searching the catalogue by the titles of exhibitions will give you a list of works on display:

 Past exhibitions include:

Posters

H2000.180/225

William Blamire Young, The poster maiden, ca. 1897, lithograph, Pictures Collection, H2000.180/225  

Paintings

H28383

Arthur Thomas Challen, Moira Madden, later Moira Hallenstein, 1937, oil on canvas, Pictures Collection, H28383

State Library Victoria

LIBRARY CLOSURE  

As of Monday 16 March 2020 our Library buildings are closed to the public due to the rapidly changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Our Ask A Librarian  reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.