Trove noir

Trove noir
The dark side of Trove that may surprise you
10 November 2016

As a collection of Australia’s cultural heritage, Trove collects wonderful stories from the past for the researchers of the future. If an Australian collection agency has put it online we have tried to collect it, from the weird…

Image of muscial automaton in the sape of a lawyer

Musical automaton, 'L'Avocat' (The Lawyer), circa 1890-1910, courtesy of The Powerhouse Museum,

 to the wonderful…

Watercolour painting of a bird of paradise

Ellis Rowan (1848-1922), Red-plumed bird of paradise, 1917,

Collecting it all (or as much as we can) means we have brought in a few items that may surprise.

Rogues and rabble rousers

A ’rogues gallery’ is a collection of photographs taken for identification purposes by law enforcement agencies. Identity photographs, or ‘mug shots’, were one of the most regular types of photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because they were such a useful tool in crime prevention. Trove’s rogues gallery contains pictures from Tasmania to Northern Queensland and even across the ocean. Of course, not everyone photographed was a criminal. The men below were unionists during the Great Shearers Strike, 1891.

19th century photograph of imprisoned strikers

Mug shots of prisoners associated with the Barcaldine Shearers' Strike, 1893, courtesy of Queensland Police Museum,

Originally taken just for identification, mugshots changed over time and in some locales even became expressive. Attached to the mugshot below is a ‘special photograph’ , a particular type of image taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930 in which prisoners seemed able to adopt whatever pose they chose.

20th century photograph of prisoner William Stanley Moore

Mug shot of William Stanley Moore, 1 May 1925, courtesy of Historic Houses Trust,


The rakish, handsome pioneer turned to crime by the injustice of society, or local ruffians who couldn’t keep their hands off other people's horses? Most bushrangers died young, but they captured the imagination of the populace at the time and continue to do so today.
Photograph of bushranger Ben Hall

Portrait of Ben Hall, circa 1856,

In Trove you’ll find artwork memorialising their exploits, photographs while they were alive (and after), letters, medals, wanted posters and possibly even the odd suit of armour.

19th century etching of a bushranger escaping police on horseback

 Edgar C. May, The bushranger pursued, 1890-1920?,


If you feel like being bad, but still want to go over to your nanna’s house on the weekend for tea and cakes, then graffiti may be more your style:

Photograph of Melborune street with graffiti

Greg Power (1974-), Graffiti on a wall and bins in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, January 2011,

Graffiti is actually one of the world’s oldest art forms and adorns some of its most significant archaeological sites, so good on you for carrying on the tradition graffiti artists. Just don’t tell nanna.


Remember the golden age of magic when the impossible seemed possible and our cynicism didn’t need to be tempered by tight black shirts and peroxide-whitened teeth? When magic was something that came from the depths of the occult not a street-wise smirk and jazz hands. Oh well, enjoy the poster and postcards:

Early 20th century postcard showing the magician the Great Thurston doing a magic trick

The Great Thurston, 1905, courtesy of the State Library Victoria,


From nudists, to smokers to sportsmen, if you want to find a group of fanatical followers and the moral outrage that accompanies them, you will find it in a newspaper… and it will be different.

Image of four newspaper clippings regarding cultsVarious Trove Articles,,,,


One of the more harrowing elements of the Trove collection is the way in which tragedy is captured so frequently. Is it human nature to want to know what a crash looks like? To see disaster unfold?
Fortunately, despite the nature of crashes, people survive, this was the case in this 1938 crash at Lake Monger, WA:

Photograph of a plane crash

Plane crash at Lake Monger, 28 January 1938, courtesy of the City of Vincent Library,

So why does Trove collect these strange images and items?

Simple. They’re valuable, perhaps not to you or me but to someone who wants to know more about early 20th century magic, mid-20th century aircraft crashes or just find a picture of that great aunt who the family doesn’t talk about.

These items will continue to be valuable as long people like you and me continue to delve into the dark side of Trove. What surprises have you found in Trove? Let us know in the comments section below this blog or contact us.

Cover image: Postcards advertising the magican Horace Goldin, circa 1900-1939, courtesy of the State Library Victoria,



Great treasures. Thank you. But I think you mean 'suspiciously white', rather than 'overly fluoridated' teeth. Flouride overdose makes teeth go mottled then brown.
Thanks for the tip :)
I found the a complete description of my great grandparents wedding, including details of the gowns, a full guest list and gift list. Silver salt cellars were very big! But, knowing your gift would be printed and noted in The Nepean Times would have made you choose carefully!
Trove is invaluable to me. doing a history of an organisation for which 20 years of minute books are missing. The meetings were so well reported in the local papers. And I have also learnt so much about my forebears
That's great to hear, Roma. We're glad to know how useful Trove is in so many ways.
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I love searching through Trove for articles regarding my family history. Found some regarding my gr grt grandfather who's small company found the first diamonds in the Woolshed area. Many relatives who were police officers, one who ordered the warrant for Ned Kelly's arrest in 1878. So much valuable information, so glad I could share it with my 91 year old mother.Thank you.
We love hearing stories like this, especially when they mean so much to families. We're glad to help.
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From TROVE I was able to confirm and expand upon some obscure family stories from the time my grandfather Frank Heider was in the Merchant Navy prior to, during, and after WWI. Fortunately his sister arranged for two of his letters to be printed in the Mt Alexander Mail in 1915. I was able to discover more about the many vessels he served aboard in conjunction with the Discovering Anzacs website. Unfortunately it seems Merchant Navy service records before 1922 are virtually non-existent. Hopefully we can discover more in the future about the period after 1915.
Hopefully you will discover more relevant information as we expand Trove's contents over time, Yvonne. Thank you for your message.
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I thoroughly enjoyed viewing this post and look forward to reading more. How fascinating it is to have an opportunity to view the past through these wonderful photographs.
Thanks, Onyx. Plenty more in Trove! :)
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I enjoyed reading about Australian history. Thanks for sharing the rogues gallery. Awaiting the next one.
Thanks, Sebastian - more great blog posts on their way this year.
Trove has yielded up many press clips on Australian earthquakes that preceed seismograph installations. Such nnecdotal history adds to our earthquake databases. (Australian Earthquake Engineering Societry, EA )
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