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Guide to the CDHS Collection

The extensive CDHS collection is held in the CDHS Resource Centre at Curtin. The collection covers the ACT and areas with past and current links to Canberra such as Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn, Bungendore and Braidwood. A substantial part of the collection is listed in our online catalogue

Some of the material we hold is rare or unique, such as collections of personal papers and large maps, and is not available online. This is material the online researcher will not find.

Books, pamphlets and leaflets

We hold about 2,500 books (some rare) and pamphlets and large amount of ephemera. The many pamphlets cover topics such as major events, tourist attractions and business advertising. Most leaflets are not catalogued at present – just come in and search!

Canberra Historical Journal

The Canberra Historical Journal, issued in March and September of each year, aims to publish well-researched articles about the history of Canberra and district, and on broader history where it impinges on Canberra. The Journal also publishes reviews and notices of significant new writing on the history of Canberra. First published in 1966 and in its present form from 1978 (as the 'New Series')

The Journal is mailed free of charge to society members. Current and former issues are available for sale. The Journal, from 1995, is reproduced in full text in the Informit Social Sciences database, accessible to subscribers.

Canberra History News

More than a newsletter, this publication keeps you up to date with events and research by members. Canberra History News is published every three months. First published in 1957.

Other publications

A number of other related societies send us copies of their journals and newsletters. For example, we hold copies of the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal which covers the whole of NSW.

Personal collections and research papers

We hold collections of personal papers donated by people or their families. Some include Charles Daley, Pat Wardle (née Tillyard), Gus Petersilka, Eleanor Atwell (née Blundell), George Dick, Greg Murphy and Albert Wright.

These collections also include those of organisations and places such as the Canberra Steam Laundry, Tuggeranong Arsenal and the Kingston Foreshore industrial area (Val Emerton collection).

There are also papers prepared for excursions to historic sites and talks given by society members.


The society holds a very large number of photographs with nearly 5,000 catalogued and viewable on our web site. However there are still many not yet catalogued or on the website. Some special collections include Keith Carnall's cricket photographs and the many photographs in the Pat Wardle collection.

Analogue and digital recordings

The society's holdings include a range of information held on CD, cassette tape, DVD and VHS tapes. Cassette tapes include some oral histories and talks given at CDHS monthly general meetings.


We have a small display of documents, objects and artefacts such as souvenirs of the opening of the provisional Parliament House.

Several paintings have been donated over the years and several are of early pioneers of the district. For example, a painting of the Acton Tourist Park with its little huts.


The society has a significant collection of detailed maps of the area and plans of evolving Canberra suburbs and some buildings. There is a complete set of parish maps and many others prepared while the Federal Capital Territory was being established. Some, used to help value properties for acquisition by the Commonwealth, show details such as fence lines and describe the nature of the land.

Newspaper clippings and ephemera

These are held in folders under people, places and subjects. This collection includes material not digitised by the NLA – for example, from Canberra's free newspapers and Canberra Times articles after 1995.

Some other special items

There are many treasures to be found in the CDHS collection. Among these are two very special items.

The first, now entered on the ACT Heritage Register, is a beautifully illustrated three volume manuscript called 'Around Australia's Capital' documenting the journeys by foot, horse and bicycle of two employees of the Hotel Canberra in the late 1920s, George Jefferis and John Whelan (later to become President of CDHS). There are wonderful descriptions of the people they came across on their travels which ranged deep into the Brindabella's, Tidbinbilla, and across to Bungendore, Lake George and more.

The second is the nationally significant Patience Australie Wardle collection. This extensive and unique collection is an outstanding example of a primary historic source concerning Canberra's early and formative development. The collection was compiled over almost the whole of Pat Wardle's life (1910-1992) and also includes significant holdings belonging to her mother (Patricia Tillyard), her father (Dr Robin Tillyard) and some correspondence with and photographs of her sisters.