We hold permanent Museum records kept because they are valuable for legal, administrative or historical research.

The earliest records include the Minutes of the Committee of Superintendence from June 1836 and Outward Letters books from 1837.

Other unique records held include manuscript and printed material, letters, minute books, financial ledgers, field diaries, research notes, administrative and exhibition files, photographs, maps, plans, drawings and illustrations, newscuttings, audio-visual material and historical museum artefacts.

In addition to the Museum's own institutional records, the Archives also holds some acquired papers and photographic collections from people who have been associated with the Museum or who have worked in closely related fields.

We are a natural history and anthropology Museum. General questions about Australian history may be better sent to the National Museum of Australia, NSW State Records or the State Library of NSW.

The major categories of records held in the Australian Museum's Archives include:

  • Trust Minutes & other papers from 1836 including: Trust committee and sub-committee records; meeting attendance books; and curator's, general and secretary's reports to the Trustees
  • Correspondence series: including outward letter books 1837-1923; inward letters from 1853; and Curator's and Secretary's private letter books 1875-1919
  • Collection records: including historic collection registers and documentation regarding the purchase, donation and exchange of specimens and artefacts including; accession schedules 1879-1956, purchase schedules1883-1924, exchange registers and schedules c.1874-1926
  • Public Program records: including exhibition files; education files; public relations and marketing files; and audience research surveys and reports
  • Financial Records: including general account ledgers1875-1968; balance sheets 1881-1926; and cash journals 1914-1966
  • National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife Records: the NPI was established in 1969 to compile a photograph of every Australian bird species. In 1977 it was expanded to include Australian mammals and in 1984 reptiles and frogs. These records are now held by the AM Archives
  • Personal papers: of Museum trustees and staff
  • Staff records: including lists of employees and social club papers
  • Newscuttings and other publications: including annual reports from 1853; Australian Museum Magazine 1921-1961; Australian Natural History, Nature Australia and Explore Magazine from 1962; Records of the Australian Museum from 1890; Guides and Handbooks to the Australian Museum; Catalogues of the collections from 1837
  • Photographs: including Museum photos of staff and events; and significant ethnographic collections of George Brown, Frank Hurley, Thomas Dick and Walter Roth

The Archives also holds some acquired papers and photographs of individuals who have been associated with the Museum or worked in closely related fields.

For a more comprehensive listing of material held in the Archives or for enquiries regarding specific records please contact Archives and Records.

Visiting the Archives

The Archives is open by appointment only. Contact us in advance before planning your visit and we will arrange a time to visit.

If you are contacting us online, we will reply to your enquiry within three weeks. Please note that we do not supply images for commercial use.

Access restrictions

The Museum's institutional archives are public records and access to them is provided under the provisions of the NSW State Records Act, 1998.

We make every attempt to provide access to our holdings, however access to records may be restricted due to to confidentiality, special restricted access provisions and the fragility or condition of some of our holdings. There may also be donor conditions placed on collected papers.

We will try to make you aware of any restrictions before you visit.

Research Services

We provide a limited reference service. If you cannot visit the archives in person or your enquiry is likely to require detailed research assistance, we suggest you engage a researcher to help you. Lists of professional researchers are available from the Professional Historians Association of NSW and the Australian Society of Genealogists.

If you are looking for information about the history of the Museum, its buildings, activities and some of the people who have worked here, check our website first.

Contact us

If you are contacting us online, we will reply to your enquiry within three weeks. Please note that we do not supply images for commercial use.

Archives collection highlights