Our Manuscripts collections are wide ranging and provide rich evidence of the lives and activities of Australians who have shaped our society.

  • Seven men painting in art studio

    An art studio at GCC (German Concentration Camp), New South Wales, c.1914-1919.  Part of the Ferguson Collection. Complete image available at:

  • Close up of journal page featuring coloured paint

    John Olsen (1928- ). Salute to Five bells : John Olsen's Opera House journal, 1971-1973.  Part of the John Olsen Papers. Complete image available at:

  • Close up of handwritten notebook

    William Bligh (1754-1817). Notebook and list of mutineers, 1789. Complete image available at:

  • Cook's handwritten 1768 journal entry

    James Cook (1728-1779).  Journal of H.M.S. Endeavour, 1768-1771. Complete image available at:

  • Handwritten diary entry with a photo of a ship

    Frank Hurley (1885-1962).  Autograph rewritten from part of the diary kept on the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Expedition 1929 on which Frank Hurley was official photographer, c.1929.  Part of the Frank Hurley Papers. Complete image available at:

The Library's Manuscripts collections tell the stories and endeavours of individuals and organisations, offering first hand insights into events, people and places significant in Australia's history.

Ranging from single items to large collections, they comprise a wide variety of unpublished materials including letters, diaries, sketches and artworks, notebooks, maps, photographs, literary works, organisational records, blogs and many other types of records in both paper and digital form.

Our Manuscript collection includes many outstanding single items and small collections from the colonial period, but its greatest strength dates from the 1890s and Australia's development as a nation. The collections predominantly relate to Australia, but there are also important holdings relating to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the Pacific.

As part of the Library's mission to document all aspects of Australian life, we actively collect the papers and records of individuals and organisations that reflect the diversity of Australian society, culture, environments and political systems. While most of our collecting relates to recent Australian life, earlier materials are acquired as opportunities arise.