Historical Aerial Photography

Last updated:12 March 2024

Geoscience Australia has the most extensive historical aerial photography collection in terms of land coverage and time. The catalogue contains of over 1.2 million aerial photos, some dating back as far as 1928. This collection is an important historic record and is essential for understanding Australia’s changing landscape. But it was on film; limiting its lifespan and how it could be used today.

Historical aerial photography is unique, irreplaceable and is needed by governments for effective planning, decision-making and transfer of knowledge. For this reason, these collections are essential for the protection and future well-being of Australians and their changing environment.

Geoscience Australia has been working with the National Archives of Australia to digitise the physical aerial photography collection to digital.

Historical Aerial Photography collection

Geoscience Australia has developed the Historical Aerial Photography (HAP) collection in an online data delivery system. This application allows users to search and download the Commonwealth aerial photography collection for free.

Screenshot of the Historical Aerial Photography Hub.

Search Historical Aerial Photography

The online catalogue provides users a simple searching tool to discover the records collection. The mapping system allows users to understand what information is available and, if digitised, to preview and download the image data.

Screenshot of the Historical Aerial Photography portal

StoryMap of Historical Aerial Photography

This story map shares educational and interactive information that describes historical aerial photography in Australia. The story contains general history, case studies, state government program and our large collection of Historical Aerial Photography over time.

Screenshot of the Aerial Photography Through Time StoryMap.

How to order Historical Aerial Photography

Aerial photography is recorded on flight line diagrams, which show; aircraft paths (also known as runs), the centre of the photos in relation to ground features, and film reference numbers. To order photographs, please download and complete the order forms.

Sydney March 1930, Film Number MAP3422.