Your amazing contributions to the Moments in Time photo series have really blown us away here Archives Outside. In fact, it became our most successful series on the blog after just the second post!
Many images in our collection have come to us with only the barest of details attached. Your knowledge, interest and enjoyment in identifying dates and locations is helping us to fill in some of the blanks and, in turn, provide better access to the State’s archives.
A close rival in popularity to the photo posts is Useful Tips for Reading Handwritten Documents which became a long list of tips and tricks generated by comments from you and from State Records staff.
It got us thinking….can we create a similar list of useful tips for dating photographs? You have used such a variety of methods in dating the featured photos that we thought you’d like to share them in one place and help out those who are new to the ‘craft’.
For instance, do you date photos from: the clothing people are wearing; the cars you see; the progress of building construction; the appearance of telegraph poles; an historic event…or something unusual?
I’ll start off the list with something I learned while following the advice of a Flickr friend.
- Old Colonial (1788-1840)
- Victorian (1840-1890)
- Federation (1890-1915)
- Inter-War (1915-1940)
- Post-War (1940-1960)
- Late 20th Century (1960-present)
- Australian residential styles
- Australian non-residential styles
- NSW Heritage database
- Book: A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architectural Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present by Apperly, Irving and Reynolds
- can help identify streets
- check old directories (Sands for Sydney and Sands & McDougall for Melbourne) for business names
- Google maps (street view)
- Old maps see Trove (National Library of Australia). Streets can change considerably over time
- Useful dates
- 1912-> license plates included “NSW”
- pre-1924 – license plates were black lettering on white background
- pre-1937 – license plates contained numerals only
- Vehicle registration plates of Australia
- Book: Australian Number Plates by the Blue Mountains Family History Association
- Examples of NSW number plates
- Are there initials or a name written on the photo that can identify the photographer?
- Book: Australians behind the camera : directory of early Australian photographers, 1841 to 1945
- Australian Railway Historical Society (AHRS) Library
- Railway Commissioners Annual Reports
- check when locomotives (and sometimes wagons and passenger cars) went into service to narrow down a date
- check when a railway station opened (as well as additions/extensions to the station)
- books by David Keenan on the Sydney Electric Tramway (many are available at AHRS bookshop at Central Station)
- The Greatest Public Work: the NSW Railways 1848-1889 by Robert Lee covers NSW developments during that era.
- Trove (from the NLA) is a great place to start. You can search, among other things: old newspapers, maps, photos, books as well as some digitised archives
- Picture Australia
- Australian pictorial history books
- Ask the locals – contact the local/family history society
If you’d like to help please leave your tips in the comments below and we will create a list of practical advice!