The collection of glass-plate negatives held in the State Archives and Justice & Police Museum are endlessly fascinating and revealing.
State Archives Collection
The State Archives Collection holds thousands of photographic images from the late 19th Century to the present, capturing life in NSW in much of its richness and diversity. The original formats of these images vary widely, from glass plates and lantern slides to 35mm negatives, colour transparencies and prints.
Maritime Services Board
Over 4000 digitised glass plate negatives from the Maritime Services Board (MSB), available to browse, date from 1870 to 1960 and show Sydney Harbour as a working harbour and place of natural beautyRead on
NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive
The NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive at the Justice & Police Museum contains photographic negatives in several formats and sizes created between around 1910 and 1964. These negatives are both a record of how NSW Police used photography and a reflection of how photographic technology changed during these decades.
Let's get technical
What are the ‘Specials’?
The most popular images in the archive are those known as the ‘Specials’, mugshots of suspects in police custody, and especially those photographs taken between 1920 and 1930. We do not know why the police named the photographs ‘Specials’, but the term hints at the rare and inviting qualities of these images, and at their contravention of the norms of police mugshots. Unique among international police photography, the Specials capture both the physical characteristics of the suspect and a glimpse of their personality. Our research indicated that the Specials’ remarkable aesthetic may be the creation of police photographer George Howard, whose ‘artistic proclivities’ were noted in contemporary newspaper reports.
These fragile glass plates are not directly accessible to the public. Instead, after Conservation makes a positive health check on this glass plate negative it will go to the Digitisation team, and the researcher will receive a digital copy.