There’s a new way to explore our image collections – Sketchbooks and albums.

Covering a myriad of experiences – these albums range from the European grand tour, to the snaps taken over many years recording working lives – places and faces; flower and vegetable gardens, and much loved pets. As you can see – from the snapshot above – the contents vary widely.

image of front covers of 6 photograph albums

Photographs still do capture a moment in time, but the age of the smart phone and digital imagery has changed the whole exercise. The delay between capture and viewing the developed product, as opposed to the instantaneous, and potentially voluminous nature of digital photography gives analogue photography added dimensions, and a sense of curatorship in the albums, from their creators and compilers. These albums can also be invaluable for family historians, even allowing for the curatorship involved in the creation of the album, a sense of the place and time of your ancestors.

The attributed photographer is not always so, nor are they necessarily the compiler – anecdotally women were responsible for compiling and annotating these family albums. These often very personal collections, created for memory and sharing, give us an entree into both the people, and the moments in their lives – made notable by the fact they were recorded. It is easy to find yourself trying to unpack these relics from the past, from a few clues – imagining into the spaces captured – a wedding party on a hot summers day in Violet Town, the cool springs of Banff, the figure of Esther, on her lonely promontory, William Ying gazing cross the street and the assembled throng at the Rudder Grange for an afternoon of fun.

The Stringer family albums

The Stringer family generously donated some of their family archive of albums recording holidays, pets, children growing and special events. As they show places, dress, how people lived, housing and interests – the personal combines with the historical and social, giving us a much more intimate sense of place and time. The writing in greylead pencil on this page identifies the compiler of the albums, Reg Stringer – top left, on an excursion, a picnic in the bush, the family home in Camberwell Road and family or friends.

page of 8 black and white photographs, on car trips, a picnic in the bush, people, sections of a brick double story house
Stringer, Reg, compiler, Photograph album relating to the Stringer family and friends, 1917-1933, H2013.253/1-330, p 11
album page with 6 back and white photographs of a trip to Yan Yean reservoir: people in a car on a dusty road, looking up at the photographer; view across the still reservoir with reflections of trees in the water and a boat shed on the right hand side of the photo;  2 photos of 4 people standing on either edge of a weir at Yan Yean; the group siting on a log in amongst trees; the group having a picnic in a clearing.
Stringer, Reg, compiler, Photograph album relating to the Stringer family and friends, 1917-1933, H2013.253/1-330, p 16

Album of photographs and postcards relating to members of the Rudder Grange and other canoe clubs

The Yarra River hosts many sporting and recreational venues – the boathouses at Fairfield and Studley Park are still popular today, along with many gathering places, dotted along the meanders from its Warburton headwaters. The Rudder Grange Canoe Club was rowing central and hosted both social and competitive activities – all recorded in this wonderful collection.

page from album of Rudder Grange canoe club - with 4 black and white photographs - the café with people standing on the balcony, men and women standing at the launching ramp on the rivers edge, women wearing long white dresses, the men in suits; a view across the river to the damaged landing after the flood in 1920, view looking up to the Rudder Grange clubhouse - a large white 2 story building with verandahs around.
Howard, Arthur, compiler, Album of photographs and postcards relating to members of the Rudder Grange and other canoe clubs, 1900-1952, H2017.48/1-231, p 11

Harold L. Godden of Tamleugh collection of glass negatives

Harold Leopold Godden’s album of life, in and around Tamleugh and Violet Town in north east Victoria includes endearing animal photographs, a family wedding – and a wonderful still life composition celebrating a productive vegetable garden.

Black and white photograph of view down Cowslip street, a wide dirt road edged with buildings and trees, a buggy going down the middle of the road.
Cowslip Street, Violet Town, [1907-1914], H2011.59/57
Black and white photograph of a still life of vegetables arranged on a brocade cloth on a front verandah, a lace curtain at the open window behind.
Collection of vegetables, [1907-1914], H2011.59/24

A few views taken during a walking tour over the Australian Alps

A journey through the Australian Alps in 1921 is recorded here, annotated with passages of poetry – and locations carefully labelled. The album is a beautiful object in its own right with the embossed wildflowers on the cover, and the dark frames around each photo insert to highlight the image. A labour of love.

The Ying family album

The Ying family album, donated to the library by Shirley Ying, daughter of the photographer, William Henry Wong Ying, includes beautifully caught informal snaps of the Ying children and images of central Victoria, to the north of Ballarat.

Album of photographs of world tour taken by Miss Dorothy (Dot) Fryer

This carefully labelled and decorated album recounts the Coles buying trip of Dorothy (Dot) Fryer, in 1938. The deckled edges of the photographs, white pencil on black background and a carefully selected layout suggest great care and the taking of the photographs with a view to their inclusion in such an album.

page from photograph album including ten black and white photographs from Egypt, including people riding camels at the pyramids, the Sphinx, Cooks Rest House, street and city views.
Fryer, Dorothy (Dot), compiler, Album of photographs of world tour taken by Miss Dorothy (Dot) Fryer, “Egypt”, p 14, 1938, COMY07791
page of nine black and white photographs of Florence. View of the Duomo, River Arno, St maria Novella, Bargello courtyard, Old palace courtyard, Piazza of Michael Angelo, Square of the elders.
Fryer, Dorothy (Dot), compiler, Album of photographs of world tour taken by Miss Dorothy (Dot) Fryer, “Around Florence”, p 22, 1938, COMY07791

Enid O’Connor’s World War II album

Enid O’Connor enlisted in 1942, joining the Australian Army Signal Corps. After training in Tasmania and various postings, she transferred to the First Australian Army, and thence to New Guinea in April 1945. The album records people and places, and gives us a sense of the camaraderie from this period of her life. Pasted in at the end of the album, are some press clippings, reflecting on Enid’s time in the army.

W.H. Smith family album

The photographs from the W.H.Smith family album are mostly from the Seville, Victoria area. A W.H.Smith was a Shire of Lilydale councillor, and the local paper records an event held at Linden Farm, with a brass band present; advertisements to come and stay in the “heart of the bush” at Linden Farm appeared in Melbourne papers for a short period, promising fresh fruit, milk and poultry.

Wilf Henty collection

Wilf Henty’s collection recorded his travels and working life – forestry, agricultural work, and for the railways around Victoria. From this photograph we get a sense of the “work family”, co-workers sharing Easter – often a time of family gatherings, for these men in remote Victoria, the marking of this occasion was important to record. Some of Henty’s images were used to record the history of the Walhalla railroad, and other branch lines,1

black and white photo of 7 men, railway workers,  - 4 standing 3 seated and a dog, with easter 1903 written on a sign at the front.
Easter 1903, group portrait of seven men, Wilf Henty far right in back row, 1903, H2002.106/288

The collection includes photographs of rural and urban settings, from the pursuit of progress, to an intimate moment on the front step.

Linay, Powell, Marwick family collection

The Linay, Powell, Marwick family collection spans these 3 connected families and crosses the oceans. Robert Frith Linay and his bride, Jane Elrick emigrated from Orkney Scotland in 1853. 2 From holiday snaps to the trenches of World War 1, of people and shattered landscapes, the collection of over 600 images is a rich record of the times and travels of these families. The Linay family moved between England and Australia – and Nita (Janet Etheline) features in many of the the holiday snaps. The Linay timber yard operated in Prahran, closing in 1981.

Charlie Hammond scrapbooks and albums

To end, this marvellous array of scrapbooks and albums from Charlie Hammond. In his early life travelling between England and Australia, gave him many opportunities to record views and impressions. Finally settling in Tecoma, his albums include a rich array of travels, home life, family and friends, giving us powerful sense of place and time.

More to explore

Further reading

Bate, Weston; McGillivray, Euan; Nickson, Matthew, 1996, Private lives – public heritage : family snapshots as history, Hawthorn, Vic. : Hutchinson
Jaunay, Graham, 2011, Solving riddles in 19th century photo albums, Modbury, S. Aust. : Unlock the Past
Langford, Martha, 2021, Suspended conversations : the afterlife of memory in photographic albums, Montreal : McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Available from home for State Library Victoria members who are Victorian residents.

  1. Steam on the lens
  2. Stonnington history news : newsletter, No 59, Aug-Sept, 2005

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