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Photo Investigator screenshot of images

About Photo Investigator

Photo Investigator is a user-friendly application highlighting some of the tens of thousands of photographic images in our collection. The images date from the late 19th Century to the present.

Photo Investigator is a searchable database, which provides access to each image and its descriptive metadata. The application was designed in-house with the intention of linking it to Archives Investigator (our catalogue). This unique function allows you to navigate from an image in Photo Investigator to the detailed record series information, of which the image forms a part, in Archives Investigator.

We started digitising the collection in 2002. The images have been indexed using the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus.

Some highlights from the collection

Images on Flickr

We have been showcasing some images from Photo Investigator on our Flickr account.

YouTube Presentation of Faces in the Street

This video presentation (initially produced for History Week 2010) features a selection of photographs from the NSW State archives collection showing city dwellers going about their daily business.

Searching Photo Investigator

There are five ways to search the database:

  1. Subject search - alphabetical list of subjects
  2. Simple keyword search - use a keyword or phrase
  3. Advanced search - use keywords and a date range
  4. Search by series - browse the collection by series
  5. Search by digital ID - search by partial or complete digital ID

We recommend using the subject search or search by series options, initially, as a way of familiaring yourself with the range of subjects and the available record series.

Search Tips

Subject search

Allows you to browse through an alphabetical list of subject headings. It limits your search to the subject headings that have been assigned to the images. Use the alphaabetical list to browse to a  subject and select the subject name to display search results.

Simple keyword search

Finds word(s) anywhere in the record. It allows you to search single or multi word phrases, eg., HotelThree Crowns Hotel.

Enter the keyword in a singular form eg., horse (not horses) and click on the "Search" button.

Search by series

Browse through a set of thumbnail images from individual series (some sets are complete, others are only a selection of a series).

Advanced search

Refine your search by using up to three keywords, and imposing a date range for the search.

For example:

  • tram returns 111 search results
  • tram and Sydney returns 41 search results
  • tram and Sydney from 1920 to 1940 returns 18 search results

Search results

Results matching your search criteria display as thumbnails plus image metadata. Click the thumbnail image to view a larger version in a new window. Use the Close this Window link in the upper right hand corner to return to the search results screen. To view information about the record series in Archives Investigator select the Series Number link.

The Search Results page will also tell you the number of images found using your search criteria. There are options to search again and information on how to order a high resolution (600dpi) digital copy of the image.

Note: the images displayed in the search results are all low resolution (75dpi) which is suitable for online viewing.

Technical information

The following table provides the general technical information.

Resolution 600dpi
Bit depth 24 bit RGB
Compression JPG 75dpi
Image size Approx 600 x 400
Colour space Adobe RGB
Colour management RGB ICC profile embedded
File format JPG for Web
More information

Ordering information

Copies of digital images will be provided as high resolution (600 dpi) jpg files on CD. Please note the files cannot be sent as an e-mail attachment.

We accept Visa and MasterCard. Money orders should be made payable to State Records NSW.

Place an order online

The simplest way to order an image is online through the secure Westpac online payment system. Simply use the Tick to order option above the relevant entry/entries then select the Order Form button at the bottom of the page and follow the prompts.

Place an order offline

If you prefer to send your order by post or email you can use this Downloadable Order Form (PDF 34kb).

Cost of service

The cost of the service is $25.00 for one image which includes postage and handling and the cost of the CD. Additional images are $5.00 each.
For overseas orders an additional $3.65 postage and handling fee is charged.

Order turnaround time

  • Standard orders - 15 working days from date of receipt
  • Urgent orders - 5 working days from date of receipt. A 25% surcharge will apply to all urgent orders
  • Non-standard orders - a 25% surcharge will apply. Please contact us at before placing your order to discuss possible specifications

Working days are Mondays - Fridays, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Note: State Records does not accept responsibility for photographic orders lost in the postal system.

Copyright and terms of use

Through Photo Investigator, State Records NSW is making available digital copies of selected photographs from the collection.

Copyright in the images produced by public servants, and in many cases individuals and companies contracted by the NSW Government, is vested in the Crown not in the individual author. The material that appears at the State Records web site is, subject to the operation of the Copyright Act 1968, vested in the Crown in the right of New South Wales. You are welcome to reproduce for personal, in-house or non-commercial use any material which State Records creates and displays at the website.

If you wish to reproduce, alter, store or transmit the material for any other purpose, such as publishing or for exhibition purposes, you should contact the Senior Archivist, Research & Publications ar