- 25 Jan 2013
- The Courier Mail
- Charles Miranda
- IN LONDON
AN OUTSTANDING collection of thousands of images of Australia cataloguing the growth of the colony, has been found after more than 150 years locked in archives in London.
From tall ships entering Sydney Harbour and the docks of Circular Quay in 1870, to a busy Collins St with horse and carts and men in top hats in Melbourne, the images capture landmark buildings and the daily life of all the capital cities.
The collection was gathered by the British Colonial Office on the orders of the 2nd Earl of Granville, to report back to London on the progress of the colonies in Australia.
Archives reveal that many of them were displayed at an international exposition in London in 1873, and caused a sensation because of the limited understanding of life on the other side of the world.
The images were then stored in volumes before staff at the National Archives UK received the books. They have spent the past 18 months digitising and cataloguing them to ‘‘show Australians their past’’.
Many images date as far back as the early 1860s and represent the first outdoor use of the camera.
The rich collection includes ‘‘Hobart Town’’; an 1876 shot of Adelaide’s most prominent structure, the Post Office Town Hall; the little colony of Perth on the Swan River and dozens of images of Aborigines including some from the Barambah settlement (Cherbourg).
National Archives UK photographic records specialist Steven Cable said the ‘‘Australia collection’’ was contained in 45 albums of 2500 images, photographs and drawings, of things considered important on the day, such as government buildings and Sydney Harbour and there was evidence they were shown at an exhibition in London in 1873 to show of the architectural magnificence particularly of buildings in each capital and also the faces of the local indigenous people.
‘‘The Australian drive and confidence and civic pride of the Victorian era really shines through in these images,’’ said Mr Cable, who has worked at the Archives for 20 years.
‘‘The images give us an idea of what these locations were like at the time, what life was like but also gives us an idea of the British thinking as well and how they used the images,’’ he said.
‘‘My impression from now knowing this collection was how a maternal view is taken by Britain and distinct care and concern with not only the conditions on the ground in the colonies but also it’s never entirely divorced from commerce.’’
The images will be released online on photo-sharing site Flickr and on the Archives website in time for Australia Day. Many have no captions and the UK National Archives has invited feedback from Australians to boost their understanding of the collection.