Guide to selected collections

The National Library's collections range in date from the eleventh century to the present, take in every country in the world and are exceptionally broad in format and subject. They consist of books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, ephemera, maps, manuscripts, private archives, music scores, pictures, microform and digital materials.

A significant proportion of what the Library holds, including some of the rarest and most valuable material, was acquired as collections. Some were built up by individual collectors, families, booksellers and learned societies, often over a long period (formed collections). Other collections have been assembled from various sources by the Library itself in an effort to achieve great strength in particular subject areas (subject collections). Many of the collections have outstanding research value.

The following entries are for the most significant of these collections. The entries give details about the individuals, families or organisations that assembled the collections, describe the size, scope and strengths of each collection, and summarise how they have been acquired, organised, catalogued or listed by the Library. While the majority of the collections described consist largely of Australian materials, there are also entries for significant Asian, European and North American collections. These descriptions are intended to complement the Library's catalogue and other finding-aids.

Between 1974 and 1982 the Library published the Guide to the collections, edited by C.A. Burmester. A number of the collections recorded in that publication have been updated and are included in the following selection.

  • Material by and about Banks, including papers, letters, documents, pictures, and other publications
  • Papers, pamphlets, books and periodicals relating to communism, socialism, fascism, capitalism, international relations, public finance, politics, World War II, and the Vietnam War
  • Papers, maps, photographs and other publications largely relating to Daisy Bates' research on Indigenous Australians 
  • Books, pamphlets, leaflets, photographs, postcards and other printed ephemera, mainly relating to New South Wales country towns.
  • Mostly Australian and New Zealand sheet music, the majority from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries collected by Charles Begg
  • Oral history interviews recorded by Neil Bennetts with leading Australian figures in a wide range of sports
  • Memorabilia of musical, theatrical, social events in Queensland collected by the Benvenuti family musicians
  • Papers, including manuscripts on Philippine ethnography, books and pamphlets in various languages on a wide range of subjects with a focus on the Philippines, photographs and printed and manuscript maps collected by Otley Beyer.
  • Oral history recordings by Barbara Blackman, mostly of Australian painters, sculptors, potters and others concerned with the visual arts
  • Oral history recordings by Ros Bowden for the Women of the land and Comic artists and illustrators projects

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