State Records Home
Personal tools
You are here :: Home The State Archives Guides and finding aids Archives In Brief Archives In Brief 70 - Photographs

Archives In Brief 70 - Photographs

Filed under: ,
A brief overview of the major series of, and indexes to, photographic records held by State Records. The series listed provide an example of the range of photographic records held. They include prints, negatives, glass negatives and lantern slides.

Online sources

Photo Invesigator

Photo Investigator is a searchable database of digital photographs, providing online access to each image and its descriptive metadata. Images are being progressively added to the database. Subject matter includes the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Scheyville Training Farm, the NSW Bushmen's Contingent 1900 (Boer War) and the photographs displayed on NSW government trains.

State Records online gallery

Our digital gallery offers a growing selection of some of our many images.

Copies of photographs

Where copies are available, they are listed below. Reels are held in the reading room. CODs 121A & B, 122, 123, 422 and 423, and aperture cards are available in the reading room.

Index to photographs

A partial index to photographs is available on Reel 1373. It covers: the Government Printing Office, c.1890-1910; Government Architect c.1880-1940; City of Sydney Improvement Board 1878-90; Premier's Department; NSW Department of Public Works; State Planning Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. An unpublished inventory of selected photographs is available in the reading room.

Select list of sources

Aborigines Welfare Board | Agriculture | Board of Fire Commissioners | Colonial Secretary/Chief Secretary/Services | Corrective Services | Department of Education and Communities | Government Architect | Government Printing Office | Lands Department | Main Roads | Maritime Services Board | National Parks and Wildlife Service | Premiers Department | Public Works | Railways

Aborigines Welfare Board

NRS 30, Photographs, c.1924-61
Reels 2796-2797; COD 423, aperture card nos. 8186-9224
These comprise a mixture of official and personal photographs, including: reserves, stations, homes and schools with interior and exterior views of accommodation and housing projects; pupils and teachers; station managers and matrons and record the visits of Government officials.


NRS 211, Original illustrations (photographs, drawings) published in the Agricultural Gazette, c.1892-1920
These illustrations are arranged in broad subject headings such as machinery and implements, horses, pigs, maize and fruit.

Board of Fire Commissioners

NRS 15454, Photographs of fire brigade staff, Board members and Sydney fire scenes, 1884-1970
The photographs include: Sydney fire scenes; official and sporting photographs of fire fighters of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade; equipment and members of the Fire Brigades Board and Board of Fire Commissioners.

Colonial Secretary/Chief Secretary/Services

NRS 1254, Photographs of the departure of the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent for South Africa, n.d. (c.1900)
Reel 2786; COD 422 aperture cards nos. 7774-7795
Dinner time at the Bushmen's Contingent camp, Kensington, AIB 27With the outbreak of war civilians throughout the Australian colonies enthusiastically volunteered for service. Each of the colonies sent between four and six contingents that served mostly in mounted units, often known as 'mounted rifles', 'bushmen' or 'imperial bushmen'. For further information see Archives in Brief 27.
Images are available for viewing in Photo Investigator.

NRS 1326, Photographs illustrating early New South Wales, n.d.
Reel 2786; COD 422 aperture card nos. 7596-7713
Copies of the photographs are held at State Records. The original engravings, illustrations and photographs are held at the State Library NSW.

NRS 1327, Photographs of New South Wales, n.d.
Reel 2786; COD 422 aperture card nos. 7714-7773
These photographs include: images of Sydney, for example Woolloomooloo, Circular Quay, the Botanical Gardens, public buildings and street scenes; the Blue Mountains; images of waterfalls, creeks and other places of interest in regional New South Wales; agricultural exhibits and mining scenes. A full listing is available in the reading room.

Corrective Services

Photograph description books From the gaol photo description books, AIB 70
These books are maintained in many series and are arranged by gaol. The books contain a photograph of each prisoner and details including: date of portrait, personal details, date arrived in colony, physical details, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks and previous convictions. The photographs are being progressively microfilmed and indexed. The index to the gaol photographs is available online.

NRS 1932, General indexes to photograph description books, c. 1870-1931

Department of Education and Communities

NRS 15051, Photographic collection, 1850-1991
The History Unit of the Department of School Education, when preparing school histories, research for public relations, or giving presentations created this series. The collection consists mainly of photographic prints. Most show school buildings, pupils, teachers, or educational activities, with most including an identifying caption and date.

Government Architect

NRS 4346, Photographs of public buildings and war memorials in New South Wales, c. 1880-1940
Reel 2786; COD 422 aperture card nos. 7796-8185
See Appendix E of the interim guide to the records of the Colonial (Government) Architect for a full list which is available in the reading room.

NRS 4349, Photographic album of the Royal visit, Sydney, 1954
Official photographs of Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to Sydney.

Government Printing Office

NRS 4481, Glass and film negatives, c.1870-1988
Reels 2787, 2546-2547, 2643; COD 121A&B, and some aperture card negatives
These are glass and film negatives maintained by the Government Printing Office as a resource for government information and publications. For preservation reasons the original glass negative are closed to public access. Copies of some of the negatives are avaliable. A list of copies available is located in the reading room.
The State Library of NSW has digitised many of the glass and film negatives, c.1870-1988. These are available on the Library's PICMAN database.

NRS 4482, Photographs of railways and tramways, c.1888-1910
Reel 2787; COD 121A
These photographs include images of railway stations in the Sydney metropolitan area, the Blue Mountains, and regoinal areas; railway yards; tracks, tunnels, lines, bridges and overpasses; the construction of the Central Railway Station and tramways. A full listing is available in the reading room.

Lands Department

NRS 8095, Photographs, c.1920-21
These photographs from the Returned Soldiers Settlement Branch, show the clearing of land, construction of houses, crops and farming activities on soldier settlements established following World War I.

Main Roads

NRS 9781, NRS 9784, Glass negatives and lantern slides of construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1921-32
Reels 2644, 2717-2718; COD 122

Maritime Services Board

NRS 9856, Glass negatives and photographic negatives, c.1870-1960
Reel 2755; COD123, aperture card nos. 3203-3372, 3745-7273
These negatives record the construction of wharves and adjoining facilities in Sydney Harbour, views of Port Jackson, H.M.S. Indefatigable and Formidable, diagrams of technical systems, shipping movements, beacons, and demolition sites.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

NRS 10738, Photographs, 1890-1959
The Causeway at AudleyThis series consists principally of photographs of the Royal National Park including flora and fauna. Many images relate to the recreational facilities around Audley and include photographs of people boating, playing sports, bushwalking, picnicking and participating in ceremonies.

Premiers Department

NRS 12135, Photographs of the 150th Anniversary celebrations, 1938
These photographs depict activities celebrating European settlement.

NRS 12137, Photographs of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Federation, 1951

Public Works

NRS 12487, Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney, 1900
Reel 2746, COD 123, aperture card nos. 7274-7595
Photographs of quarantine areas following the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in 1900.

NRS 12685, Sydney Harbour Bridge photographic albums, 1923-33
Photo from our collection, AIB 70Photographs of the construction stages of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For further information see Archives in Brief 37 and Archives in Brief 38.

NRS 12688, Photographs taken by Max Dupain showing the various stages of construction of the Sydney Opera House, 1959-73
For further information see Archives in Brief 28 and Archives in Brief 30.


NRS 17420, State Rail Photographic Reference Print Collection
This series consists of reference prints from a variety of sources within State Rail and predecessor organisations. The print collection is held at Western Sydney. A subject index is available in the reading room.

NRS 12932, Original prints of photographs used in New South Wales trains, c.1940-60
Tourism photographs of scenes from metropolitan and country New South Wales. These images may be viewed via Photo Investigator.

Other online sources

City of Sydney Archives -

National Archives of Australia PhotoSearch -

Department of Lands (aerial photos) -

Picture Australia -

Picman, State Library New South Wales -

Further Reading

Davies, Alan and Stanbury Peter. The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841-1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985.
Cato, Jack. The Story of the Camera in Australia, Institute of Australian Photography, Melbourne, 1977.
Frost, Lenore. Dating Family Photos, 1850-1920, L Frost, Essendon, Victoria, c.1991.


Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions, to confirm the public availability of records. State Records' staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.

For more information about your rights of access to State records see Archives in Brief 9: Your rights of access.

Other records may be identified in Archives Investigator. Archives in Brief 99 provides a brief overview of the Photo Investigator database.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply. See our copyright notice or contact us.