Australian Visual Histories

Exploring how images have shaped our history

This project, led by Professor Jane Lydon, researches, digitises and shares Indigenous photographic archives with descendants in Aboriginal communities across Australia, providing a major Indigenous heritage resource. Aboriginal communities involved in this project have welcomed the research, which aims to re-connect families and communities in the wake of assimilation.

Through international collaborations with European institutions, the UWA-based Berndt Museum and a national network of Aboriginal communities, this project contributes to a shift towards decolonising Australian and international museum policies.

Partner investigators report that the project strengthens their relations with Indigenous communities and that it provides a model for repatriation that informs subsequent projects across the globe. Meanwhile, interest in their collections has significantly increased.

For more information about this project, visit the Returning Photos website or watch the video Calling the Shots: Aboriginal Photographies about the book which was edited by Professor Lyndon.


Understand how images shaped ideas, debates and attitudes in the past

Question how can we use images to write history

Return archival photos of Aboriginal people to relatives in the present


Help us explore how Australian visual culture shapes the present

We welcome contact from Aboriginal communities, cultural institutions and organisations that would like to collaborate in this research. Contact project lead, Professor Jane Lydon, using the details below.


Partners that we collaborate with include: 

  • Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
  • Musée du quai Branly (France)
  • Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (Netherlands)
  • Berndt Museum
Graphic of map of Australia



ARC Discovery

  • ‘Heritage in the limelight: the magic lantern in Australia and the world’


ARC Discovery

  • ‘Australia and anti-slavery: humanitarianism and popular culture from 1890 to the present’


Future Fellowship

  • ‘Recognising Aborigines: from objects of science to First Australians’


ARC Discovery, Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship

  • ‘Globalization, Photography, and Race: the Circulation and Return of Aboriginal Photographs in Europe’


ARC Discovery

  • ‘Aboriginal visual histories’

PhD opportunities

PhD research is needed to expand and develop research regarding all aspects of historical and present day visual culture.
To get involved, contact Professor Jane Lydon using the details below.

Contact Professor Jane Lydon