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State Records holds many tens of thousands of photographic images from the late 19th Century to the present, capturing life in New South Wales in much of its richness and diversity. The original formats of these images vary widely, from glass plates and lantern slides to 35mm negatives, colour transparencies and prints.

Our digitisation program aims to bring many of these ‘hidden’ images to light, using the latest technologies. Where necessary, images appearing on Photo Investigator have had basic adjustment and manipulation for display purposes.

Our Digital Gallery is another way to explore our collection and showcases stories, photos and documents from the NSW State archives.

Macquarie Lighthouse, Sydney  Art gallery of NSW  A Sundowner, Riverina District  Horsedrawn vehicles in operation at old Sydney Railway Station on the corner of Devonshire and George Streets, 1890  Trams operating on George Street, Sydney - showing the Queen Victoria Building, 1920  Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1931  Broadway looking west, Sydney, 1962
Kiosk at central Railway Station, 1920s  The ferry 'Phoenix' built in 1899 for the New South Wales Public Works Department and used as a tug and as a staff ferry  Clyde Street, Millers Point  Class C3021 being cleaned by school boys at the Eveleigh Depot during the 1917 strike  Entrance to colonnade steps at Central Railway Station, Sydney, 1924  Close of day at Brunswick Heads  Rail commuters on the escalators at Wynyard Railway Station, 1948

Photographic series - search or browse

  • Example from NRS 2549Trial Bay Gaol Photograph description book (1892-1901), NRS 2549
    The series consists of individual loose-leaf sheets each including a photo or photographs of a prisoner, accompanied by the following details:
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  • Example from NRS 20499Most up-to-date Sydney panoramic views, NRS 20499, c.1915
    This series consists of a booklet containing a collection of prints of panoramic photographs of Sydney's buildings, parks, harbour, zoo and streets. Photographed and printed by H. Phillip, Katoomba NSW c.1915.
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  • Example from NRS 4349Royal Visit, Sydney: Photographic album 1954, NRS 4349
    An album of decorations and illuminations of public buildings and parks in Sydney for the Royal Visit of 1954.
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  • Example from NRS 15051Photo collection History Unit [Department of School Education] 1850-1991, NRS 15051
    The History Unit of the Department of School Education collected these photographs when preparing school histories, research for public relations, or giving presentations.
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  • Example from NRS 20224Photos of metropolitan, country roads ferries etc., and miscellaneous operations, NSW 1926-1946, NRS 20224
    This series consists of photos showing the construction and maintenance of roads in New South Wales.
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  • Example from NRS 20012Photograph albums relating to Northern Territory road works [Department of Main Roads], NRS 20012
    These albums contain photographs of miscellaneous defence construction work in the Northern Territory during World War II.
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  • Example from NRS 20013Photograph albums relating to the construction of an aerodrome on Norfolk Island [Department of Main Roads], NRS 20013
    These albums contain photographs of the construction of the aerodrome on Norfolk Island during World War II.
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  • Example from NRS 20014Photograph album relating to the construction of the road between Duaringa and Charters Towers, Queensland [Department of Main Roads], NRS 20014
    These albums contain photographs of road construction work between Duaringa and Charters Towers in Queensland during World War II as part of the Northern Inland Highway.
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  • Example from NRS 15344Photographs of Sydney taken between 1860 and 1880, NRS 15344
    Photos of Sydney Harbour and environs, major buildings in Sydney, provincial centres and rural New South Wales. There is a note inside the album cover saying This album was purchased from J. Degotardi, Department of Public Works, in 1913 - price £20.
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  • Example from NRS 10913Pharmacists, c.1909-1917, NRS 10913
    Collected by the NSW Board of Pharmacists and associated with the Board's roll in keeping records relating to people registering as Pharmacists in NSW.
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  • Example from NRS 549Photo albums of Mr L.G. Watt, NSW Board of Fire Commissioners NRS 549
    These photos provide a visual account of the Commissioners' travels around NSW and parts of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The two albums cover 1928-1935.
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  • Example from NRS 10036Photographs of coal mines NRS 10036
    This collection of images are of pit-tops and loading and transport facilities of northern New South Wales coal mines.
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  • Example from NRS 4481Government Printing Office Glass Negatives NRS 4481
    Photography was a major activity of the Government Printing Office from the late 19th Century until well into the 20th, resulting in an extensive and diverse collection of photographs of life in New South Wales.
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  • Example from NRS18526 State Rail Authority: Glass plate negatives NRS 18526 These glass plate negatives include landmarks and streetscapes of the North Shore of Sydney and include early images of Newport, Turramurra, Chatswood, Milsons Point, Hunters Hill and areas in the Lane Cove National Park.
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  • Example from NRS12487 Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney NRS 12487 These are selected images of quarantine areas in Sydney, following the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in 1900.
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that Photo Investigator includes the names and images of Indigenous Australians, some of whom are now deceased.

Ordering copies

You can purchase high-resolution digital copies. On the search results page use the "Tick to order" option above the relevant entry/entries then click the "Order Form" button at the bottom of the page.

You can also download the print-friendly Order Form (PDF, 36kb)

Copies of digital images are provided as high resolution (600 dpi) jpg files on CD. The price per image is $5.00 and an administration fee of $15.00 + postage also applies.

State Records on Flickr

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More information

The State Records Authority of New South Wales
T: +61 2 9673 1788 | F: +61 2 9833 4518 | E: | ABN: 96 588 554 718