PhotoSearch – Fact sheet 19

What is PhotoSearch?

PhotoSearch is the National Archives’ photographic database. It contains more than 290,000 images.

You can use keyword and date searching in PhotoSearch to locate image titles on topics as diverse as Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, the funeral of Sir Robert Menzies, the last camel mail delivery from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and the closing of the arch on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

You can browse a selection of image titles and images under hundreds of subject headings relating to Australia, including Antarctica, ballet, botanic gardens, cities and towns, conservation and environment, cricket, demonstrations, elections and referendums, lighthouses, natural disasters, pearling, police, Royal Flying Doctor Service, and royalty.

How to use the PhotoSearch search screen

You can find images by searching for keywords or phrases in the title, the date on which the image was taken or reference numbers of the images. After entering your search terms, select ‘Search’.

Keyword and phrase searches

Search for keywords and phrases in image titles by entering one or more words in the 'Search for' box. You need to select a search option from the dropdown box.

  • All words – This will search for image titles that contain all the words you typed, eg alice springs will find titles with alice and springs.
  • Any words – This will search the title of each image for any of the words you typed, eg alice springs will find titles with alice or springs or both words.
  • Phrase – This will search the title of each image for the words you typed in that exact order with no other words in between, eg alice springs will only find titles with alice springs in that exact order.

You can use an asterisk (*) to find all variations of a word. For example, Malay* will find image titles containing the word Malay, Malays, Malaya, Malaysia, Malaysian etc.

Date searches

To search for images taken in a certain year, enter a single date (eg 1964) or a date range (eg 1960-1964) in the 'Date' box. You can combine a date with a keyword search, eg VFL grand final in the 'Search for' box and 1976 in the 'Date' box will locate images of the 1976 VFL grand final.

Reference number searches

  • Series number – To retrieve all image titles in a particular collection or series, type the series number (eg A1200) into the 'Search for' box and choose 'Series number' from the dropdown menu.
  • Image number – Type the image number (eg L894) into the 'Search for' box and choose 'Image number' from the dropdown menu.
  • Barcode – Type the barcode number into the 'Search for' box and choose 'Barcode' from the dropdown menu.

Browse by subject

You can browse titles and images from collections of the former Australian News and Information Bureau, later the Australian Overseas Information Service, by subject.

  • Browse titles by subject – Allows you to browse all images under a particular subject.

When you select 'Browse titles by subject', an A–Z subject page will open. Select one of the letters and a list of primary subject headings available under that letter will display (eg choosing B displays the list Beaches, Belgium, Birds, Botanical Gardens, Bridges, Burma). 

Select a primary heading to display secondary subject headings (eg choosing Bridges displays Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria).

To display images and other descriptive information select either the primary or secondary subject heading.

Not all images in PhotoSearch are listed by subject. To ensure you find all relevant images, supplement browsing with a keyword search using the 'Search for' box.

Viewing images

A thumbnail (a small version of the picture) is displayed beside the description of an image. Select the thumbnail to view a larger version of the image. Use the back button on your browser to return to the list of images.

Each image description contains information about the subject headings under which it is indexed and about the collection (or series) it comes from. To locate other images from that series or with the same subject headings use the relevant link.

For more information

To purchase digital images, see our Copying charges.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019