At Windsor Castle on 27 February 1882 Queen Victoria received a special gift from the people of NSW. Encased in an ornate wooden box was a large book clad in purple velvet embellished with elaborate silver mountings. As she opened the cover and turned the pages of the heavy tome, Victoria would have seen a faraway place: a land where ancient landscapes, sites of ‘civilisation’ and symbols of Empire coalesced under a sharp light and clear bright sky. This, no ordinary armchair selection of late 19th Century photographs was the ‘Queen’s album’, gifted to her as a tribute of loyalty and an expression of the spirit of optimism and possibility that defined the British colony of NSW.
The Queen’s Album is a new exhibition produced to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. It features images from the 1882 album reproduced from original glass plate negatives sourced from the State Archives Collection.
The Queen’s Album reimagines a moment in history from nearly 140 years ago when NSW sought to define itself to the reigning monarch. It also compels us to consider if we were to create a similar album today for Queen Elizabeth II—Victoria’s great-great granddaughter—what would we include?
Today, the whereabouts of the album presented to Queen Victoria are unknown.
Can you help us solve the mystery of what happened to the original 1882 album?