Which Australian animal has been described as “an impossible patchwork creature”?

State Library Victoria members can access hundreds of databases from home (if your home is in Victoria). That’s millions of articles, magazines, archives, ebooks, videos, songs, audiobooks and more, available through the catalogue anytime. We’re taking a closer look at new and/or interesting databases as well as hidden gems from our collections. Read on for top picks and tips from Librarians. 
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Today we’re looking at the National Geographic Archive.

What makes this database so great?

The familiar yellow edged cover concealed a wealth of stories and pictures from around the world – a treasure trove of incredible photography and detailed articles on a myriad of topics. This archive includes every issue of National Geographic from its first publication in 1888 until 2015. To find more recent articles (text only), there are a range of options through links in our catalogue.

The National Geographic Society, founded in Washington in 1888, aimed to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge… its pages will be open to all persons interested in geography in the hope that it may become a channel of intercommunication, stimulate geographic investigation…” 1

You can browse for an issue, search on keywords, or do an image search – content the magazine is deservedly renowned for.

Some highlights

The Meerkats of the Kalahari Desert feature in this article. We learn about Juma and his family grouping, their social structures and mammalian co-operation as key to their survival, plus wonderful photographs.

photograph of a meerkat, standing on hind legs with front paws hanging down a leaf in its mouth, and staring down at the camera
Meerkats stand tall. Photo by Mattias Klum and article by Tim Clutton-Brock, National Geographic Magazine, September 2002, p 53

Australia’s unique fauna has inspired interest and occasionally fear. The platypus described here as “an impossible patchwork creature…equally at home in the water or on the land, boasting something of the fish, fowl, beast and reptile…” 2  is a story of the platypus Splash, cared for by Robert Eadie, honorary curator at Healesville Sanctuary 1932-1937.

Black and white photograph of a platypus on the ground, moving through fallen leaves
Australia’s patchwork creature, the platypus. Photo by Morwell Hodges and article by Charles H. Holmes, National Geographic Magazine, August 1939, Vol LXXVI, No 2, p 272

Owls are captivating birds. The author of this article developed a relationship with a particular grey owl over a three year period, until the bird disappeared. Other photographs show their adaptability in the face of extreme weather, but also how habitat loss – such as nesting trees – can contribute to their reduced numbers.

photograph of a pair of Ural owls, perched on a branch - a parent and a young owl, black and white feathers with lush green foliage behind
A love affair with the Ural owl. Photo Sven Zacek, article by Amanda Fiegl, National Geographic Magazine, June 2012, Vol 221, No 6, p 92

The quest for dinosaur fossils calls many skills into play. Here in the striking Utah mountains this story unfolds as paleontologists discover unique species in the mudstone belt of southern Laramidia along the western side of the US.

colour photograph of the skeleton of a dinosaur, with a crouching man beneath for scale - the dinosaur is almost twice as all as the man.
Digging Utah’s dinosaurs. Photo by Cory Richards and article by Peter Miller, National Geographic Magazine, May 2014, Vol 225, No 5, p 68

We hope you enjoy exploring the National Geographic Archive.

We always welcome your recommendations for database trials – let us know what you’d like to see. Have a research query or questions on how to use our online collections? Ask a librarian


  1. Announcement, National Geographic Magazine, October 1888, p i
  2. Holmes, Charles H. Australia’s patchwork creature, the platypus. National Geographic Magazine, August 1939, Vol LXXVI, No 2, p 273

This article has 4 comments

  1. Great archive! Shared via my facebook.

  2. I recently watched one of their documentaries and was surprised by the beauty and information that I did not know before.
    Thank you for this good introduction

    • Hello Aria – the photographs are remarkable – glad that you found this archive after watching the documentary, and I hope you enjoy continuing to explore. Thankyou for your feedback!

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