Special Collections is a rich resource of original archival materials covering an extraordinary range of topics. Our 400 archival collections include handwritten and typescript manuscripts, diaries, journals, ships logs, correspondence, subject files, photographs, maps, plans, posters, artworks, audiovisual recordings and many other original primary source formats.

The collections cover three main areas of strength:

  • Australian literary, theatre and film history since 1970
  • War, military and conflict history
  • Australian political history post 1990, with a focus on the Howard government years

But Special Collections is much more. Delve beyond these focus areas and you will find a surprising array of source material such as a sixteenth century Swedish parchment, artwork executed with a brush made of human hair, and colourful sequences of posters from Pram Factory and other theatre company productions of the 1980s.

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Australian Literary, Theatre, Film & Television History since 1970

The literary, theatre, film and television collections make up the majority of holdings and include the papers of both major and minor figures of Australian writing. These also include papers relating to Australian literary magazines and organisations. The collection is particularly strong in the fields of contemporary Australian poetry and drama. Significant holdings include the papers of such writers as Alex Miller, Dorothy Porter, Nick Enright, Lily Brett, Frank Hardy, and David Foster.

War, Military & Conflict History

Collections relevant to war, military and conflict histories range from the fifteenth century to the present day, with an emphasis on Australia and the Asia Pacific region. The most significant of these are the ship photographic collection of Doug Robertson, amounting to 60,000 images, the nominal roll of the Australian Parachute Regiment, various historic naval diaries, and diaries from AIF members during the First World War.

Contemporary Australian Political History

Special Collections gained custody of the Commonwealth John Howard Collection in 2014 under a special arrangement with the National Archives of Australia. The collection is a mixture of Commonwealth and personal records of the longest serving Australian Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard. It includes press releases, newspaper articles, and policy papers of both the government and opposition parties. The records are being released to Special Collections by the National Archives of Australia as they come into the open access period. Further collections of relevance to the period of the Howard federal government are also available in collaboration with the John Howard Library.