NSW Police Forensic Photography archive (Justice & Police Museum Collection)




An estimated collection of 130,000 glass plate and cellulose based negatives originally created by police and prison photographers between 1912 and 1964 and covering all manner of criminal investigation and police activity.

The NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive held by the Justice and Police Museum was originally created by the NSW Police Department and the NSW Department of Prisons between 1912 and 1964 and may be the biggest police photography collection of its type in the southern hemisphere. The original storage formats and photographic formats represented in the archive reflect developments in the use of the photographic medium by police over this time, including a significant shift in the late 1930s when the arrangement of negatives became more organised including notes about a crime, date and name of the photographer. This shift most likely occurred when the Scientific Investigation Bureau (SIB) was formed in 1938 and police working in the SIB were specially trained in scientific methods of investigation. The Photographic Branch was one of five specialist areas in the bureau. By the mid-1940s SIB members were vital to police investigation, being the first called to an incident to collect specimens and document the aftermath of accident or crime. Members from 'scientific' were also required to process their own photographs and prepare scale plans of the scenes they photographed. This documentation was used by detectives to assist in reconstructing the incident, solve crime and was later brought before the courts as evidence. The archive covers a wide range of police work: mug shots, accident scenes, crashes, murders, fires, forgeries and fingerprints. It also provides a record of Sydney streetscapes and domestic interiors across a 50-year period since, through the course of their investigations, police photographers were called to document a wide variety of public and private spaces. Although primarily concerned with the investigation of crime, the police themselves have a presence in the archive: portraits of officers in uniform, group and squad photographs, as well as sporting activities are recorded.

Item level entries can located in HHT Pictures Catalogue link provided above.


Crime; Criminal identification; Men's clothing and accessories; Mug shot; Police detainees and suspects; Policing; Portraits; Women's clothing and accessories

Glass plate negatives; Photographs

Coverage Spatial

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Coverage Temporal



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2012-05-30 23:40