Staff here at the National Library of Australia have been working hard on the Australian advertising posters project. Generously funded by donations to the 2019 appeal, this project aims to digitise all of the pre-1950 posters in our collection.

Acquisitions Officer Rosalind Clarke writes:

Work on the project was particularly exciting this week due to several unusual discoveries made in our posters storage area. The first discovery was on an old exhibition poster advertising a display of Will Dyson cartoons. Dyson was one the foremost Australian cartoonists during the First World War, and was married to illustrator Ruby Lindsay, a member of the famous Lindsay family of artists. As you can see, entry to the exhibition cost one shilling, about seven dollars in today’s money. We exhibited works by Dyson, Ruby and her brother Norman during Inked: Australian Cartoons last year for free, which seems to go against how inflation normally works. 

Poster illustrated by cartoonist Will Dyson

Collection of posters on art exhibitions, 1909.

Whilst retrieving the poster for digitisation we also found some notes written on the reverse, probably from the original owner, who explains that it was ‘given me by the artist’.  This kind of information about provenance can be extremely useful to scholars and is a fantastic find.     

writing on reverse of poster outlining provenance

Reverse of Will Dyson poster. Collection of posters on art exhibitions, 1909.

We also came across a poster advertising the Victorian spring racing meet of 1871. We opened the drawer to find it, quite literally, in pieces.  At some point in the past, the pieces had been put together on archival glassine paper and covered by a plastic bag. With it was an old conservation treatment form dating all the way back to 1975. Eagle eyed readers might spot that the poster belonged to Mrs Fanning’s section– a reference to the redoubtable Pauline Fanning, who worked at the Library for forty years.  We took the opportunity of rehousing the poster it into a much safer Mylar pocket with some extra protective paper – just one small part in the long history of custodians caring for this particular object at the Library.

damaged poster

Victorian Racing Club, issuing body (1871). Victorian Racing Club Spring Meeting.

Both items were careful taking down to our Digitisation team and can now be seen in high resolution [HERE[RC1] ] and [HERE[RC2] ].

This project creates so many opportunities like this to add to our knowledge of the history of these objects in ways that we would’ve have been able to do otherwise.  This work would not have been possible without our generous donors, and we are so excited to see what else we find as the project continues.

Rehousing posters

Rehousing Australian adverting posters at the National Library. 

Rosalind Clarke is an Acquisition Officer in Pictures and Manuscripts