The Hunt for History!

Library staff explain their favourite items in the new "Big Book of Australian History"
Kate & Jemma - and the Big Book!

Kate & Jemma - and the Big Book!

How do you illustrate the whole history of Australia? When you’ve got the amazingly rich and varied collections of the National Library of Australia at your fingertips it becomes a sometimes dizzying yet ultimately really fun task! We’re Kate and Jemma, and as picture researchers for the Library’s publications we recently undertook the awesome mission of selecting around 500 images to illustrate our new kid’s book, The Big Book of Australian History. One of the best parts of doing this was getting to discover bits and pieces – some obvious, some random! – from all over the Library, like maps, paintings, photos, posters, drawings, invitations, cartoons, manuscripts, realia, music, and yes, some books too. Come along on our Library-wide hunt for historical items and meet some of the staff who do a fantastic job curating, maintaining and developing the Library’s many collections...

First stop: Pictures Collection

First stop: Pictures Collection with Jodie

First stop: Pictures Collection Jodie – “This sketchbook is an amazing piece of history. The artist, Tommy McRae, was an Indigenous man who witnessed first-hand European settlement in his people’s country, so his sketchbooks have a fascinating mix of imagery. Throughout his remarkable drawings of traditional life, depicting activities like hunting and ceremonies, the occasional courting European couple or Chinese gold miner unexpectedly appears!” Drawings by Tommy McCrae [sic], an Aboriginal of the Wahgunyah tribe on the River Murray, 1880: nla.pic-an6431252

Second stop: Ephemera Collection

Second stop: Ephemera Collection with Catherine

Second stop: Ephemera Collection Catherine – “I think collecting election ephemera is the most fun a librarian could ever have! We may cringe or even yawn at these items when they’re first circulated, but give them just five or ten years and they can start to offer us a real insight into our political and social landscape. This Gough Whitlam ephemera from 1972 is a great example – the ‘It’s Time’ campaign and the controversial sacking of Whitlam is now such a marked moment in Australia’s political history that this material is now considered a treasure.” Ephemera relating to the Australian federal elections campaigns.: nla.aus-vn2247771

Third stop: Digitisation and Photography Branch

Third stop: Digitisation and Photography Branch with Sam

Third stop: Digitisation and Photography Branch Sam – “Part of being a photographer at the National Library can involve going out and capturing moments of history as they are actually happening. These two photographs were taken by a staff photographer in 2000 and document events in Sydney that took place as part of the movement towards the apology to the Stolen Generations. To be able to capture a moment like that when the Sydney Harbour Bridge was taken over by a huge crowd of people all marching for a common purpose is pretty amazing.” Huge crowd on Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000: nla.pic-an24526893 and Advertising the event with the word Sorry written in the sky above buildings in Circular Quay, Sydney 2000: nla.pic-an24526919 --- The Big Book of Australian History, produced by NLA Publishing, is available for purchase through our bookstore and online.