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Performance by Yidinji youths dressed in yellow, dancing at Palm Island centenary celebrations, 2018.
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State Library has a rich collection of photographs to document and illustrate the history of First Nations peoples. From glass plate negatives to modern digital photography, the collections are available through State Library’s One Search catalogue.

Video guide

Photograph collections

State Library of Queensland has a rich collection of images in many different formats – online digitised images, copy prints, photograph albums and glass negatives. First Nations people feature in many photographs in the John Oxley Library and these photos may be very relevant to your research.

Photographs show costume and dress, the health of those being photographed and relationships if there are a number of people in the photograph. There are also photographs in the Tindale collection, and these can be compared with other images to establish the identity of a person.

State Library has obtained photographs from many different sources, including journals, annual reports, newspapers and photographic studios. Many early photographs were staged by anthropologists and photographers, showing groups with body paint and armour in fake settings.  Some images were taken in studios, with props that suggested Aboriginal heritage.  Other images were taken by the Aboriginal Protectors and government officials at various time periods.

Some images have been made available digitally.  Others need to be accessed by requesting them from our repositories via the catalogue.  Where digitised, photographic material containing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content has been made available in accordance with State Library of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections Commitments.

Group of First Nations people standing, and group of First Nations people and one white man sitting, posed in front of bush shelters

Group posing for a photograph in cleared bush. 27868, Brisbane and Regional Queensland Gelatin Glass Plate Negatives. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 27868-0001-0025

Copy Print Collection

The Copy Print Collection is a collection of photographs collected or received as loans and donations – all with some relevance to Queensland’s history and people. ​From the late 1980s negatives were made of almost all incoming photographs. During this process copy prints of the negatives were printed, given a subject heading and filed in boxes, regular and large sized. Only a small part of this collection has been digitised.

State Library’s Copy Print Collection includes many images of First Nations people from the 1800s to the 1950s. Photos in this collection can be searched and requested through our One Search catalogue.

You will find catalogue entries under several headings, including Photographs of Aboriginal Australians. Other subject headings in the One Search catalogue include photographs of Aboriginal Australians at specific locations, such as Photographs of Aboriginal Australians at North Queensland or Photographs of Aboriginal Australians at Avon Downs Station.

Folders of photocopied images

Folders of photocopied images are available to view on the open shelves in the John Oxley Library heritage collections area on level 4. They are arranged alphabetically by place names, such as Cherbourg, Kowanyama and Weipa. Ask the staff at the level 4 desk if you have trouble finding them.

Archival material and manuscript collections

State Library’s archival and manuscript collections include many photograph albums, collections and glass plate negatives relevant to First Nations people. This material ranges from very early images to recent photographs. Some examples of such collections include:

First Nations woman in dance costume and painted face leaning forward from waist

Roslyn Watson performing in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, Queensland, 1988, 30300 Michael Aird Photographs, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: 30300-0001-0013

Soldier portraits

Indigenous soldiers were accepted for service from 1917. Many Queensland soldiers had their photographs taken at Enoggera prior to embarkation. State Library has digitised the more than 30,000 soldier portraits that were published in The Queenslander. You can search for these images in our One Search catalogue using the person’s name and the term “soldiers portraits”.

Who's Your Mob information guide - Photographs

Discover State Library's rich photographic collections.

PDF · 102 KB

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