The women’s movement, the advent of television, rock and roll, the gay rights movement, the Vietnam War: explore photographs and documents bringing the turbulent 50s, 60s and 70s to life.

Photograph of an anti-Vietnam protest, [nd]

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 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 going to have a look at Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975: rock and roll, counterculture, peace and protest, a database of primary source documents from a time of massive social, political and cultural change. The database features thousands of photographs, along with magazines, ephemera, memorabilia and more, which allow us to explore the key events and movements of this period.

Although the focus is on Britain and America, Australia is well represented with a number of fanzines, including the original Australian version of the iconic counter-cultural publication Oz.

Screenshot of database homepage banner.

What makes this database so great?

For those who want a quick idea of what this database offers, there are thematic image galleries, a themed photographic archive, and online exhibitions, which make browsing the content straightforward and highlight some of the treasures available. Because much of the politics and culture of this era was closely linked with art and visual culture, there are wonderful selections of images which can be easily browsed by topic.

Screenshot of Thematic Image Galleries menu.

The database does a great job of providing contextual information for many of the items through its virtual exhibitions and essays. Themed exhibitions on topics such as women’s liberation and consumerism, as well as essays and interviews, provide background information for the items in the database.

Another great way of navigating the collection is through the chronology, which can be viewed as a timeline or visualisation. This feature lets you look at a specific year, provides an overview of the key cultural and political moments from that year, and illustrates this with images from the database.

Screenshot of Chronology feature.

Database highlights

Oz was one of the most prominent examples of “underground press” – independently published magazines which reflected the countercultural movement. Started in Sydney, it is famous for being at the center of an obscenity trial in 1970 when the editors handed the magazine over to a group of schoolkids to edit. Here we have two cover images, the final issue’s cover being illustrated by Martin Sharp. Sharp was one of the magazine’s co-founders, and an artist famous for his psychedelic images which graced posters and album covers, including the Cream album Disraeli Gears.

Photography is another strength of this database. A highlight is the collection of over 3,500 images from the Mirrorpix archives. These are taken from the British press, and have been divided into easily searchable categories. A selection of images on the Cold War includes not only photographs, but also cartoons from British newspapers.

A hidden treasure of the database is a wonderful selection of press kits, which were distributed to cinemas to help them promote films. These fascinating multi page booklets are filled with articles, photographs, trivia and posters. The collection features kits for many famous films of the era such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Sound of Music, and Rear Window, but also includes westerns, science fiction and B-movies, such as Soylent Green and Yog Monster from Space!

We hope you enjoy exploring Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975.

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.

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