Search Catalogues

We use several different databases to catalogue and deliver our collections in collaboration with our partner institutions. These include the State Library of NSW, the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the UNSW Sydney Library. Follow our instructions below to find the the database and content you need. 

Each manuscript collection has a Finding Aid which is a full listing of all the boxes and files within them. Use the Finding Aid Index to identify specific collections, to search across our entire manuscript holdings, and to search for specific listed content within collections.

  • Browse our complete holdings by scrolling down the list. Collections are listed alphabetically by name of creator.
  • You can also search by entering name, place and subject keywords in the search box.
  • Limit your search to either Literary or Military or Political or Miscellaneous collections by ticking the relevant check box.
  • Keyword search within each finding aid by using the Ctrl F function on your keyboard.
  • Once you have identified any material of interest, note the manuscript, box and folder numbers and copy this information into our Contact Us enquiry form.

Search Manuscript Collection Finding Aids

Special Collections shares a library catalogue with the UNSW Sydney and UNSW Canberra Academy Libraries.

  • You can use the SearchGateway to find Special Collections rare books.
  • Perform a simple search by entering keywords directly into the search box.
  • Alternatively, you can select the link for ‘Advanced Search’ options, including searching by field and publication date. 
  • If you are a UNSW student or staff member you can login to save your results and construct lists.
  • Once you have performed your search, the results include content in the UNSW Sydney Library, the UNSW Canberra Academy Library and subscription e-resources as well as Special Collections content. You will need to refine your results to Special Collections holdings by selecting ‘Special Collection’ under Refine My Results>Collections>Special Collection on the left-hand side bar.
  • To continue searching for Special Collections books only, select ‘Apply Filters’. Note that the ‘Special Collection’ check box is not always immediately visible, and you may need to scroll down the list to locate it.
  • To lock the filter (now visible at the top left of the page) hover over the word ‘Special Collection’ and click the lock icon.
  • Once you have identified any books of interest, note the corresponding author, title and Special Collections call numbers and copy this information into our Contact Us enquiry form.

UNSW Canberra Search Gateway

A selection of our rare books are digitised and retrievable via a separate search portal.

  • Use the Digital Collections Rare Book portal to search for titles that have been digitised.
  • Use the advanced search to full text search within the digitised books.
  • You can also download the digitised pages, and bookmark searches.

UNSW Sydney Digital Collections portal

Search our database for video and sound recordings of Australians involved in wartime conflicts from the First World War to Afghanistan.
Keyword searching the full transcripts enables researchers to quickly find interviews relating to specific events, topics and people.

Australians at War Film Archive (AAWFA)

This collection of John Howard’s official parliamentary records (including some personal papers), was amassed during his long career as a politician.  The material belongs to the National Archives of Australia, which by special arrangement is housed and made accessible to researchers at Special Collections, UNSW Canberra (NAA 001).  

  • The archive is catalogued and searchable  within the NAA’s RecordSearch.
  • Use ‘Advanced Search’ – Commonwealth Person - ‘John Howard’ ‘all words’ to identify relevant material.
  • Click on the hyperlink ‘Series’ to obtain a full list of all the records in the John Howard Collection by series number. Those in the open period housed in Special Collections are marked as being ‘located-Canberra’ at UNSW Canberra.

Explore the Special Collections finding aid for NAA 001


NAA RecordsSearch

The personal archive of John Howard comprises his personal set of papers accumulated whilst Prime Minister (March 1996–December 2007).  The material belongs to The Howard Library and is housed and made accessible to researchers at Special Collections, UNSW Canberra (JHL 001).

Explore the Special Collections finding aid for JHL 001


Visit The Howard Library

UNSW Canberra students have produced more than one thousand post-graduate theses since 1986 (previously RMC Duntroon and University College). These are now digitised and available to search. The theses hold great research value and are heavily used open access digital items. Use UNSWorks to find theses within the past three decades. UNSWorks is also the repository for more than 1,700 research outputs from UNSW Canberra academics and students on a wide range of topics. This includes all the theses and research outputs UNSW-wide.

  • To find a specific item enter your keyword in simple search.
  • Limit your results to UNSW Canberra by using the filter on the left ‘Faculty’ - show more - UNSW Canberra.
  • You can also restrict to output type by filtering on the left ‘Resource Type - show more - eg Theses - PhD, Theses - Master.
  • To browse all theses from UNSW Canberra use ‘Advanced Search’ and enter Faculty - Contains - UNSW Canberra, then filter by date or resource type on the left.

UNSWorks portal

Publications on the history of UNSW and the founding of the University College (now UNSW Canberra) are largely held by the University Archives, located at UNSW Sydney. Staff there can search the archive databases on your behalf.

A complete set of UNSW Canberra and ADFA publications and photographs is held by the Creative Media Unit at UNSW Canberra.

We hold some UNSW Canberra, ADFA and Duntroon publications in Special Collections. These can be found by using the SearchGateway, with the same search function as for Rare Books. (Link in ‘Rare Books’ section above). Some individual high use publications are digitised including:

Browse these links to find other sources to assist your research:

University of New South Wales collections

Academy Library, UNSW Canberra 
UNSW Sydney Library 
University Archives, UNSW Sydney 
Online Archives Search 

Australian collections & databases

TROVE: single search point for over 6 billion records held in the collections of Australian libraries, archives, museums, galleries, university, research and community organisations
National Library of Australia: comprehensive collections documenting Australia and the Australian people
NLA Catalogue 
National Archives of Australia: 40 million plus Australian government records on topics including military service, immigration, First Australians and more
NAA RecordSearch
National Film and Sound Archive: over 3 million Australian film, sound and audiovisual items
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS): collections and works by and relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

International collections & databases 

OCLC World Cat: search portal connecting to collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide

Australian literature

AustLit: definitive information resource for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures
Special Collections, University of Queensland: including The Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature
Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL): promoting the study and creation of Australian literature and Australian literary culture

Military history

Australian War Memorial: collections documenting Australian involvement in all theatres of war
Australians at War Film Archive (AAWFA): over 2000 interviews with Australians from all walks of life from the First World War to Afghanistan
Sea Power Centre, Royal Australian Navy: including links to naval museums and other heritage collections
Australian Army History Unit: policy and programs for the collection, conservation, interpretation and promotion of Army history and museums
Royal Australian Air Force Heritage Centres: including links to museums and artefact collections

Digitised books and manuscripts

Internet Archive: a non-profit library of millions of free books, films, software, music, websites, and more
Hathi Trust: a partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world
Google Books: a comprehensive index of full-text books
Project Gutenberg: a library of over 60,000 free eBooks
Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), University of Sydney: providing access to networked and in-house full text databases, particularly in the humanities
Early New Zealand Books(ENZB), University of Auckland Libraries: online full-text and keyword-searchable corpus of books about New Zealand published in the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century
New Zealand Electronic Text Collection(NZETC), Victoria University Wellington Library: significant New Zealand and Pacific Island texts and materials held by Victoria University of Wellington Library