Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.
All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.
Manuscripts are original documents such as personal papers, letters, literary records, diaries and business records that document the lives and activities of people and organisations.
Dating from the 17th century through to the present day, the Library’s manuscript collection holds the personal papers of thousands of individuals and the archives of private organisations and businesses.
Our research strengths include Australia’s foundation documents such as First Fleet diaries, European exploration of the Pacific and Australia, colonial life, Indigenous Australians, missionaries, literary papers, Antarctica, World War I diaries, performing arts, politics, sport, immigration, agriculture, LGBTQI life and culture, law, home life, family history and local history, popular culture and the built environment.
Want to learn more? See our Manuscripts Research Guide.
Manuscripts, like other original materials, can be viewed in the Special Collections area of the Mitchell Library Reading Room. You can request access by completing an Access to Special Collections Request form.
Before you visit, be sure to read our guide to using Special Collections. This will provide useful information on placing requests, access conditions, physical handling and copying.
To ensure the long-term preservation of our collection, the Library limits physical access to artworks where a digital version exists. Exceptions to this policy are decided on a case-by-case basis. Want to know more? Complete an Ask a Librarian request.
Some items in the Library’s collection are subject to restrictions on access. This is particularly relevant to manuscript items, which often include personal correspondence and other unpublished material.
There are a few reasons why access to collection material may be restricted or subject to special conditions of use. To find out more, see our Access to Special Collections Policy.
When encountering restricted material, your first step should be to Ask a Librarian. Our staff will provide guidance on how to proceed.
Whatever you wish to view at the Library, checking the catalogue record should always be your starting point. In the case of printed material, you will be able to request material online. For other material, the catalogue record will tell you whether the item is held offsite, requires a supervised viewing, or is subject to restrictions on access.
The catalogue record of any collection item includes a catalogue description section. Look for the following sub-headings: