Our Photographic collection contains approximately 700,000 photographs relating to Indigenous Australia, dating from the late 1800s to the present day. It is the world's most comprehensive photographic record of Australia's Indigenous peoples with more than 90% of the collection consisting of unique materials.

image slides on light table

Our Photographic collection grew rapidly throughout the 1960s and 1970s as researchers increasingly recorded source material for later use in academic publications.  Our primary role with this material was to be a place of safe-keeping and access was often heavily restricted. Subsequent efforts were made to ensure this invaluable resource was not only preserved but made appropriately accessible for future generations.

While researchers in the fields of archaeology and anthropology remain an important source of material for inclusion in our Photographic collection, over the past decade there has been a substantial increase in the number of materials offered by non-academic donors. These include amateur and professional photographers, and people undertaking family history research who seek a place where their photographs of social and historic significance can be both archived and accessed in a culturally responsible manner.

specialist scanning image slides

The Photographic collection is used for a wide range of purposes including family history research, Native Title claims, publications, documentaries and the establishment of keeping places located in remote communities.

To do your own research, you can visit our reading room to view digitised items in the Photographic collection.

Their are approximately 400,000 digitised items available for viewing, representing about 50% of the total number of items in the photographic collection. 

Images that are subject to access restrictions (eg. secret/sacred content) are not included for viewing. Access to photographic items with cultural restrictions require appropriate permissions to be sought. 

Last reviewed: 26 May 2020