Free Selector’s Log Hut, Queensland, Australia
CO 1069-612-14

An amazing collection of thousands of images relating to Australia, and dating back 150 years, shows the growth of the colonies, has been discovered in a London archive.

The collection was gathered by the then British Colonial Office on the orders of the second Earl of Granville, to report back to London on the progress of the colonies in Australia. Having been stored away in volumes before staff at the National Archives UK received the books and spent the past 18 months digitising and cataloguing them to now show them to now only Australians but also the world.

Released last week in time to coincide with Australia Day on 26 January, these images of Australian towns, buildings, landmarks and people dating back as far as the mid 19th century.

From Darwin to Tasmania, Perth to Brisbane, the people, places and projects of Australia from the 1860s to 1960s are represented in the collection, alongside smaller collections showing New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and other Pacific islands.

‘Tekasua, Rennell Island, British Solomons’, 1935, CO 1069/660

The “Australian collection” contained in 45 albums includes 2500 images, photographs and drawings of things important in the day.

From huts to city buildings, from Sydney Harbour to the MCG cricket ground, the images are amazing. There is even an album depicting the arrival of the first Governor General in Australia

The photographs have been uploaded to the photo-sharing website Flickr, and the National Archives are after your help to tag and contribute comments and suggestions to help improve the descriptions of these images.

CLICK HERE to see the collection of images in the Australian Collection. And you can read the UK’s National Archives blog post announcing the collection here.

And you can also look back at the UKs National Archives earlier ‘Through a Lens’ projects, which includes Asia, the Americas and Africa, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of online visitors and resulted in thousands of additional user-generated descriptions.