Hidden within the National Library’s collection storage area is an array of nondescript filing cabinets containing the Australian newspaper clippings files, a treasure of largely undiscovered research material waiting to surface.

These files contain articles selected from many Australian national, regional and local newspapers and cover the time period from the late 19th century to 1992.

The great value of these files to researchers is that the majority of articles cover a time period that is largely not covered by online newspaper services such as Trove (with its freely available digitised newspapers largely ceasing in 1954) and subscription databases with more recent content such as Press Reader and Newsbank: Access Global (both available to registered National Library readers via our eResources service).

Newspaper cuttings files fall into 5 sequences:

  • biographical
  • book review
  • geographical
  • subject
  • organisation.

As well as the obvious book reviews and biographical articles, a wide range of subjects are covered. These include the multicultural history of Australia, areas of industry, Australian towns and geographical features, royal commissions, defence matters, libraries, strikes, lockouts, festivals and superannuation.

Searching the subject clipping filing cabinets.

What is in the files?

Many researchers who are used to getting the full content of a newspaper article immediately from an online service may find the content of some files slightly curious. The contents may range from a single article cut from a newspaper to a substantial collection of articles covering the career of an author, the progress of a Royal Commission or the adoption of seatbelts in Australia.

A folder may also include only an index reference to the source of the article, that is, the newspaper in which the article can be found, title of article, year and date. As all index references were made from material received at the National Library, researchers can request the source via the online catalogue

Requesting the files

Thanks to a recently completed National Library volunteer project to improve access to the newspaper cuttings files, all sequences, with the exception of the book review files, are now available to request via the online catalogue. For detailed information on how to request all file sequences, take a look at our research guide.

The catalogue record for newspaper cuttings about refugees, and the files themselves.

Using the files

Although the files can only be used onsite in the Newspaper and Family History zone of the National Library, copies of files may also be requested via our Copies Direct service, and supplied for a fee. If you wish to know what is in the file before you request via Copies Direct, you can contact us via our Ask a Librarian service and we will provide a brief overview to help you make a decision.

How can the files help me in my research?

The articles in the files were selected by Library staff over a long period of time. As the staff were looking ahead to future research value, they looked for content that was topical and relevant, and that reflected the diversity of the Australian experience.

Consequently, these files have provided useful information to researchers on topics as diverse as:

  • the changing media portrayal of refugees
  • representations of multicultural Australia
  • information on Darwin and the Northern Territory in the 1960s and 1970s
  • biographical information on female journalists
  • biographical articles on prominent Australian feminists from the 1970s
  • Indigenous welfare
  • HMAS Voyager Royal Commission
  • book reviews on the work of Norman Lindsay.

Contents of the book review file on Norman Lindsay.

Access to contemporary Australian newspaper content online

If you wish to access more contemporary Australian newspaper content, the National Library provides access to the following online database via eResources.

  • Press Reader
  • Newsbank Access Global
  • The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Library Edition (2006 onwards)
  • The Sydney Morning Herald Archives (1955–1995).

These are all available offsite to registered National Library users with a National Library card.

Remember that many Australian authors had their early careers outside of Australia, so looking in databases of overseas newspapers can be rewarding. Try the following titles from the United Kingdom and the United States. 

  • The Times Digital Archive, 1785–2014
  • The Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive, 1902–2019
  • The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842–2003
  • Proquest recent newspapers: The Guardian, 2010–recent (3-month embargo on full text applies)
  • Proquest recent newspapers: The New York Times,  2008– recent (3-month embargo on full text applies)
  • Proquest recent newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, 2008–recent (3-month embargo on full text applies)
  • Proquest recent newspapers: The Washington Post, 2008–recent (3-month embargo on full text applies)

For contemporary reviews and information on Australian authors and their publications try:

  • Austlit
  • Australian book review online

Further questions?

If you have a question about the content of these files and whether they help support your research topic, please contact our Ask a Librarian service.

You can also look a the following Research Guides for information on finding newspaper articles and book reviews at the National Library: