The Museum has two types of archives:
The Museum’s collected archives are the papers of individuals and the records of organisations and businesses which the Museum acquires for its collection. These may relate to any of the Museum’s collecting areas as documented in its Collection Development Policy – technologies, health and medicine, physical sciences, architecture and the built environment, design and decorative arts, fashion, and contemporary culture. These archives are used by staff for the Museum’s research, exhibition and publication programs and are also available to public researchers.
The Museum’s institutional archives are the corporate memory of the Museum. They are the records created and received by the Museum from its establishment in 1880 to the present day. We preserve these records because they have continuing value to the Museum and to the community. They assist the Museum in its current business and decision-making and are an important resource for historical research for both Museum staff and the public.
The particular strengths of the Museum’s holdings of collected archives are:
- papers of Australian designers including Gordon Andrews, Douglas Annand, Richard Beck, Dahl & Geoffrey Collings, Max Forbes, Gerard Herbst, Linda Jackson, Richard Haughton James, Jenny Kee, Margaret Lord, Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, Marc Newson, Dorothy & Rhoda Wager, Fred Ward, Mary White, Ken Done and Derek Wrigley
- records of manufacturing industry – Berlei Ltd (underwear), Speedo, Buzacott & Co (engineering), Liebentritt (Cumberland Pottery), Martin Boyd Pottery, Tooth & Co (brewing), Victa (lawnmowers), F.T. Wimble & Co (inks) and Wunderlich Ltd (architectural hardware)
- papers relating to aeronautics and aviation – Lores Bonney, Arthur Butler, Lawrence Hargrave and Nancy Bird Walton
- papers relating to Australian innovation – Charles Beauvais (automobile design), George Brooks (SILLIAC computer), Evelyn Owen (machine gun), Henry Setright (totalisators) and Roy Wells (totalisators)
- commercial photography – David Mist, Henry Talbot and Bruno Benini
While collections are largely of Australian origin, some significant overseas collections are also held – Charles Babbage (computing pioneer), Joseph Box Ltd (court shoemaker), Belleek Pottery, Henry Husbands (surveying instrument maker) and the Chinnery Family (social and musical life of 18th century London).
You can find information in the institutional archives on such topics as:
- the establishment of the Museum and the development of its collections and programs
- the provenance of individual objects in the Museum’s collection
- Museum exhibitions
- the Museum’s early research into the state’s natural products, especially essential oils, timbers, fish, wool and building stones
- the Museum’s role in supporting public education in New South Wales
- the Museum’s early promotion of Australian flora designs in the decorative arts
- the Museum’s encouragement of Australian industry through applied research and the display of new technologies and products
- the work of former Museum Curators and Directors (J.H. Maiden, R.T. Baker, F.R. Morrison, A.R. Penfold, J.L. Willis)
- the work of former staff scientists and collectors (H.G. Smith, William Bäuerlen, Charles Laseron, T.C. Roughley, Howard McKern, Marcus Welch)
- the history and conservation of the Museum’s present and former sites – the Agricultural Hall (in the Domain), the Technological Museum, the Ultimo Power House and tram sheds, the Hyde Park Barracks, the Mint and Sydney Observatory
- our early branch museums at Albury, Bathurst, Broken Hill, Goulburn, Newcastle and West Maitland
- museological practice and arts administration.
Public access to the Museum’s Archives is by appointment. Look through the descriptions of our resources on our website to see if we are an appropriate resource for you, then contact the archivist for further advice or an appointment.
The material in the Archives is for reference only and is not for loan. Researchers are required to complete an application form when accessing the archives.
Services and facilities
The archivist is available to help you make full use of the archives. The archivist can answer requests about our holdings and answer quick reference questions, and can also refer you to other Museum or external resources. Unfortunately, the archivist cannot undertake detailed research on your behalf. In most cases you will need to come in and use the archives yourself. The archivist will assist you to locate and use the relevant material. Archives research can be very time-consuming – please allow yourself sufficient time.
Photocopying is not normally permitted because of the unique and fragile nature of archival material. Digital photography for private research and study is allowed in most situations. Where a copy request is for other purposes, the request will be referred to the Museum’s Rights and Permissions Officer.
By appointment Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (except public holidays).
Telephone: (02) 9217 0458