Using the State Archives Collection

We are the custodian of the archives of the NSW Government, the State Archives Collection. The Collection documents the Government’s activities and functions from 1788 to today.

The Collection is located primarily at Kingswood in Western Sydney. It is the largest collection of records relating to the history of NSW and the lives of its people. It comprises over 14 million items or 85 linear kilometres and grows by 2-3 linear kms every year.

The records in the Collection are arranged firstly by the Government agency (a department, branch, office or official) that created them, then into series of records, then into items (bound volumes, files, documents, or objects) within the series. Examples of our records can be found in our Galleries.

Get the most research out of your day when you visit us by pre-ordering records in advance. Pre-ordering gives us time to process your requests and have the records ready before you arrive.

How to use the State Archives Collection

The Government's activities and functions are carried out by Government agencies. Those agencies create series of records which comprise individual items. Our catalogue can therefore be searched by agencies, series and items. To successfully use the State Archives Collection then, you need to always consider which Government agency's records could be relevant to your research.

Search for people and places across a variety of topics

Our subject guides

Additional help on popular records 

We recognise it may be difficult to identify a relevant agency to your search. To assist, we have compiled subject guides (Research A-Z) and indexes (Online Indexes) to our most popular records.

Use the options above as a starting point. If you need to delve further into the State Archives Collection, you need think about the ways NSW Government agencies may have been involved in a chosen research topic, or how individuals may have interacted with NSW Government agencies, to be able to identify relevant records.

How to begin your research depends on what you ultimately wish to find. The two most common search categories may be grouped as:

  • Name (person, place, organisation, structure, landmark)
  • Subject (event, activity, process, system, service, project)


When looking for a person in the records, think about how or why that person may have interacted with the NSW Government during their life (e.g. land, law, employment), or in the event of their death (e.g. estate, inquest).

  1. Start searching for the name of a place or person in our Collection Search, which draws names from across our Online Indexes into one simple search.
  2. Follow this with other keyname searches. Note that many records relating to a person or place will not include the name in the series or item title in our catalogue - this is because records are described according to purpose (e.g. registration, communication, process documentation, or visual documentation). The person's or place's name may appear within a register, letter, file, or photograph that includes many people or places, not just the one you are looking for. Therefore... 
  3. Search next for agency correspondence records (letters received or sent) in Collection Search, including index and register series of letters received or sent, which are sometimes the only record surviving.


  1. For this type of research, first check our guides at Research A-Z;
  2. Then try Collection Search using key words.
  3. Next think about the agency which may have created records relating to the subject and search for that agency in Collection Search, making sure the ‘agencies and persons’ filter is selected. Click on the relevant agency, and a list of series created by that agency will be displayed at the bottom of the agency description page.
  4. Search next for agency correspondence records (letters received or sent) in Collection Search, including index and register series of letters received or sent (these are sometimes the only record surviving).

Correspondence records are often the best place to find information on an activity, process or event. If the correspondence on a particular subject covered many years, government officials often bundled documents together. These are known as special bundles.

How to access the State Archives Collection

  • Kingswood and Regional Archives Centres: Most of the State Archives Collection is still in its original form and needs to be viewed in our Reading Room at Kingswood. Some records of regional significance are held in our Regional Archives Centres.
  • Other locations: Many of our popular records have been copied onto microform and are available at our Community Access Points throughout Australia and several international locations, as part of the Archives Resources Kit (ARK). We also hold these copied records in our Reading Room.
  • Online: A small percentage of the State Archives Collection has been digitised, and is available online by searching our catalogue, and our Flickr page, as well as on third party websites (such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, and FindMyPast).
  • Copy service: For those unable to visit our Reading Room, we offer a copying service for certain types of records.

Useful facts about the State Archives Collection

  • Most of the State Archives Collection is open to public access after a period of thirty (30) years, due to a variety of reasons including containing sensitive personal information. Some exceptions exist and are detailed in our Register of Access Directions.
  • A large number of items are not included in Collection Search, therefore only an item range will be shown in a series description (e.g. 1/2345-2356). This number range can be used to check the item lists (in our Reading Room) to identify relevant item(s).
  • Similarly, a number of series are not included in Collection Search, so it is always worth checking with an archivist if there may be other series which may be useful to your research.
  • If you can't find what you're looking for, try our Ask An Archivist enquiry service.
More than
1.6 Million
Described Items
Accumulated over
262 Years
19 Thousand
Online Images
Community Access
97 Ministries
93 Organizations
4000 Agencies