Just as a treasured photo album captures and preserves memories and moments in time, the National Library of Australia’s vast photographic collection represents the family album of a nation. 

Reflect on the special moments – how we have changed, how we have grown, and perhaps see a glimpse of your Australian story projected on your National Library.

Learn more about the Library's Enlighten 2023 illuminations below, or watch the video.

With more than a million photographs of Australian people, places, and events, the Library holds snapshots of the hard times, the good, and everything in between. Our Enlighten 2023 illuminations use this collection to follow life through birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and ageing. They acknowledge the diversity of individual, family and community experiences, as well as the enormous social change seen in Australia since the invention of photography, and particularly over the last 50 years.

Many of the images featured in the projections also form part of the exhibition Viewfinder: Photography from the 1970s to Now on show at the Library until 30 April 2023.

Oral histories in the soundscape

The images are supported by a soundscape that showcases voices from our Oral History and Folklore Collection.

Dilys Budd talks about her decision to start a family. Phil May reflects on his family’s experiences with IVF and having triplets. Dawn Waterhouse reminisces about the sense of freedom felt by unsupervised children in mid-twentieth century Canberra. The sounds of children’s clapping games merge with Libby Kosmala sharing her experiences as a wheelchair user at school in the 1940s.

Donald Grey-Smith describes barefoot summer holidays at the beach. We also hear Ouranita Karadimas speak about a feeling of belonging at high school in multicultural Dulwich Hill. Kim Bear tells us about how our horizons expand as we move into our teens.

James Finnegan explains the significance of his tattoo with stars in the colours of the Pride Flag. Fiona McQuisten outlines the changes in visibility for Rainbow Families over her lifetime.

Netani Seru Coriakula gives an insight into family duty and cultural knowledge as a tradition bearer in the Fijian Australian community. Ruth Apps imparts the wisdom that ‘growing older is what you make it’.

Enlighten projection showing a series of black and white family photos on National Library building

Music in the soundscape

Music for the soundscape comes from 12-year-old Grace, who performs under the pseudonym Charlie Grace. An up-and-coming Canberra singer-songwriter who made her live debut at an Australian of the Year event in January 2022, Grace uses her natural affinity for lyrics and melody to express herself through the power of music.

Following her debut song release Blank Wall in May 2022, Charlie Grace is working towards recording her album, set to release in early 2023 using prize money from winning the Performing Arts category in the 2022 Edstart Achievement Awards.

Grace is recording her album at Daydream Machine, a music studio for neurodivergent young people run by 2022 ACT Local Hero Luke Ferguson.

Grace also likes all things potato-related, is a talented comic-illustrator and is the co-founder of the Official Daydream Machine Caramel Slice Olympics!

Charlie Grace

New single Stuck in My Dreams by Charlie Grace, now streaming on Spotify.

Daydream Machine logo

Images featured in the illuminations

Personal photograph album of soldiers serving during WWI and family groups from Goulburn, 1915-1917, nla.obj-140924987

Jeff Carter, Two families in a car, ca. 1960, nla.obj-148446309

Philip Quirk, The Martin children waiting for the school bus, Tarlee, Mullaley, New South Wales, 1990, nla.obj-137322509

Andrew Chapman, Five coal miners having a smoko break, Hazelwood Power Station, Latrobe Valley, Victoria, nla.obj-1234768052

Ruth Maddison, Women from the Box Hill Over 90s Club, Melbourne, September 1991, nla.obj-136512591

James Brickwood, A group of school leavers inside their messy hotel room during Schoolies Week, Gold Coast, Queensland, nla.obj-137984402

Dave Tacon, Josiah Beilharz playing a drum kit during home schooling, watched by his mother Nicki Kramer, Lower Templestowe, Victoria, 6 February, 2008, nla.obj-148404458

Dave Tacon, Residents eating lunch during Christmas celebrations at Elderly Chinese Home, Parkville, Victoria, 13 December, 2009, nla.obj-138006310

Gypsy Pennefeather, Merric Ashton and Christopher Fletcher. December 1995, nla.obj-143121362

John Crowther, Home gardener and child in the garden, Canberra, nla.obj-137650664

Lee Grant, Nat at home feeding her toddler, Jet, as cousin Pia looks on while brushing her hair, Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, 2006, nla.obj-137248266

Philip Gostelow, Ruby and Eden Gostelow hang out washing on Hills hoist, 180 Hubert Street, East Victoria Park, Perth, W.A., October 2004, nla.obj-137102868

Dave Tacon, Natasha Biltoft-Spark and Erin Patterson playing with their ten month old son, Flynn, Fairfield, Victoria, 2005, nla.obj-137134613

Jeff Carter, Woman and baby in the big shed, Reola Station, New South Wales, ca. 1991, nla.obj-137294059

J.A. (John Aloysius) Mulligan, Parents with baby Jan on the day of the baptism, St. Bridget's Church, Marrickville, 29 June, 1962, nla.obj-145112090

Anne Zahalka, Oceanworld, 1999, nla.obj-150881559

Fairfax Media, Olympic swimmer Clare Dennis with her family in the garden of her home, New South Wales, 11 August 1932, nla.obj-160112993

Denise Ferris, The Baby Pool, Berridale, N.S.W., 1998, nla.obj-145532170

Grouzelle, Portrait of Elizabeth Deans Paterson and son Ford Paterson, nla.obj-146685565

Francis Reiss, Anna Burke, Federal member for Chisholm, at Box Hill Hospital with young mother and new baby, Melbourne, October or November, 2001, nla.obj-146654870

Andrew Leslie McKay, Mary Absolom, another woman and three babies posing in a garden, Davenport Downs, Queensland, 1965, nla.obj-149809212

Philip Gostelow, District Community Nurse checking newborn's reflexes during home visit, Woodford, New South Wales, 2001, nla.obj-146952339

Maggie Diaz, Elephant trainer and son, Melbourne, 1971, nla.obj-152777792

Ern McQuillan, Three women boarding a boat with infants in carriers on their backs, Church Point, Sydney, 17 December 1968, nla.obj-138112348

Suzon Fuks, Christmas, Avalon, December 1997, nla.obj-136520977

Suzon Fuks, Playing with Barbie, nla.obj-136521082

Suzon Fuks, Birthday cake for Ella Lacey, Double Bay, nla.obj-136562693

Philip Gostelow, Ruby Gostelow and friend play hopscotch on backyard patio, nla.obj-148518588

Louise Whelan, Three boys with musical instruments participating in Sikh community classes at the Glenwood Gurdwara, Glenwood, New South Wales, nla.obj-152357612

Sean Davey, Four year old tourist from Melbourne Abofazl Mobarez playing in front of Parliament House after a hailstorm, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, nla.obj-2428729876

Conor Ashleigh, Sudanese children of the Dong and Okumu families playing on a trampoline, Newcastle, New South Wales, nla.obj-506865272

Patricia Baillie, Lollipop lady at work making it safe for school children to cross the street outside Glebe Public School, nla.obj-137252045

Robin Smith, Archie Perkins jumping on a trampoline in his backyard, Sandringham, Melbourne, nla.obj-138076914

Robin Smith, Teaching children to ski at Falls Creek, Victoria, nla.obj-147758762

Liz Ham, Simon and Sandra in their backyard, Newtown, Sydney, 1996, nla.obj-136573837

Angela Lynkushka, Youth culture in Melbourne, 1999, nla.obj-136524248

Liz Ham, Erin, Surry Hills, Sydney, 1995, nla.obj-136574050

Graham S Burstow, Perhaps next year, nla.obj-136976694

Jeff Carter, The picnickers, Wanda Beach (Cronulla), 1961, nla.obj-148674176

Herald and Weekly Times archive of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Lorraine Crapp with her parents?, Olympic Games, Melbourne, 7 December 1956, nla.obj-148936928

Ruth Maddison, Nat, 17, and Sam, 16, at Eden, nla.obj-148692953

Dave Tacon, Young residents from the Flemington housing estate, 120 Racecourse Road, Flemington, at a soccer clinic in Moonee Ponds, Victoria, nla.obj-137228010

Dave Tacon, Young residents from the Flemington housing estate, 120 Racecourse Road, Flemington, Victoria, nla.obj-137227901

Suzon Fuks, At home with Mum and friend, nla.obj-144111947

W Pedersen, Invitation to dance at school social, Telopea Park High School, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, nla.obj-137797967

Rennie Ellis, Kinky Night, Impressions Club, Melbourne, 1987, nla.obj-145165893

Dave Tacon, Hannah Beilharz reads in her bedroom, as part of home schooling, Lower Templestowe, Victoria, nla.obj-148404648

Bruce Howard, Two street kids on a cold night in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton in 1988, nla.obj-148156066

Dave Tacon, Racegoers enjoying a picnic in the grounds at Melbourne Cup, Flemington, 3 November 2009, nla.obj-138009385

Bill Bachman, Debutante Ball, Rainbow, Victoria, April 1991, nla.obj-137267481

Jeff Carter, Danceathon, Caringbah, 1960, nla.obj-148673774

Bill Bachman, Council mechanics, Jack Western, Bob Mackenzie and Bryan Steele having a drink of beer, Gascoyne Junction, Western Australia, nla.obj-138088597

Rennie Ellis, Twins, Ayers Rock, 1998, nla.obj-145172145

William Yang, Dancers on the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation's Priscilla float, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1996, nla.obj-136861421

Rennie Ellis, Jenny Bannister and girls, Melbourne Cup, 1978, nla.obj-145167899

Robin Smith, A couples wedding ceremony on the lawns of the Baha'i House of Worship, Ingleside, New South Wales, nla.obj-138075545

William Yang, Picnic at Black Mountain Peninsula, Canberra, 2007, nla.obj-147800532

William Yang, Birthday celebrations for Dadang Christanto at a Civic restaurant, Canberra, 2007, nla.obj-147796035

Jeff Carter, The Rosos at home, nla.obj-147208649

Ruth Maddison, Dentist, a member of the Victorian Public Service Association, nla.obj-144414116

Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood, Hector Pelham, Broad Arrow, nla.obj-149580556

Dave Tacon, William H. Jones aged 86 plays bingo with his resident wife Valda Mary Jones aged 88 at Cabrini Residential Care, Ashwood, Victoria, 24 June 2009, nla.obj-151766739

Matthew Sleeth, Residents of a retirement home are wheeled onto the footpath to watch the Queen, Western Freeway, Friday 24th March 2000, nla.obj-145875044

William Yang, Madelaine and Eileen Nom Chong, [Braidwood], nla.obj-146595971

Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood, Curly and Olive Iris Garbellini, Kalgoorlie, nla.obj-149578852

June Orford, Choir of Hope and Inspiration member Pat Crofts applying her stage makeup before a performance, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre, Melbourne 15 June 2010, nla.obj-152240155

John Meredith, Portrait of Ma Seal, Kimba, South Australia, nla.obj-139563419

Bruce Howard, Women on the Palm Beach bus, Sydney, New South Wales, nla.obj-147734663

Sandy Scheltema, Margaret Wheeler greeting her granddaughter Alice Sarah-Lay through a window at the Trentham Aged Care Facility due to COVID-19 restrictions, Trentham, Victoria, nla.obj-2931859303