The National Library, your home of Australian stories, is proud to be the custodian of the papers of the legendary Australian bush poet A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (1864-1941), famous as the author of The Man from Snowy River and Australia's best-loved folk song, Waltzing Matilda

After being held by four generations of the Paterson family, in 2019 the Library acquired a collection relating to this iconic Australian which represented the last remaining material not already held in a public institution. The collection contains an array of handwritten diaries, notebooks, drafts, correspondence, photographs and even an unpublished memoir.

In 2020, thanks to the generous support of the Australian public, the collection was digitised and made available online

Among the collection are an early version of Waltzing Matilda and a prisoner's letter sent to Paterson by Henry Lawson in 1905. Image: National Library of Australia

Prior to being digitised, a number of the items from the collection were selected for conservation treatment to stabilise their condition, including a portrait of Paterson at the time of his return from the Boer War.

Part of the Library's work in this area includes undertaking assessment, treatment, housing, storage review, surveys and collection stabilisation work for loans, digitsation projects and exhibitions.

The treatment of the photograph consisted of a number of steps, including:

  • Surface clean and reduction of surface silver mirroring – the silver by-product of degradation reactions of the photographic image.
  • Removal of the acidic and deteriorated backing board and associated adhesive – photographs were traditionally adhered to backing boards for support in framing.
  • Tear and loss repair to stabilise the support, protect against further loss and support handling for digitisation – tinting the repair papers reduced the visual impact of the losses.
  • Inpainting – to reduce the visual impact of the broken emulsion / paper support caused by the creases and folds.
Before and after preservation. View the digitised image online. Image: National Library of Australia

Continuing its journey through the Library, the photograph will soon be installed in the Treasures Gallery enabling visitors to come face-to-face with the celebrated Australian poet in a display highlighting both Paterson and Henry Lawson. The new displays coming to the Treasures Gallery will be in place from Friday 25 June. 

The Treasures Gallery is open daily from 9am to 5pm – no bookings are required. 

Further reading and information: