Mildenhall photographic collection – Fact sheet 222

Royal Visit, May 1927 - Mr Mildenhall with his Armstrong Siddeley motor car Registration Number 27
William James (Jack) Mildenhall - 1927 (A3560, 3120)

The Mildenhall photographs document the early development of Australia’s capital city, Canberra, from the 1920s to the 1930s. Controlled by the National Archives as series A3560, the collection comprises more than 7,700 images on glass negatives.

Jack Mildenhall – photographer

The photographs were taken by William James (Jack) Mildenhall (1891–1962), a Commonwealth public servant. Initially employed as paymaster in the Department of Works & Railways he became the Information Officer for the Federal Capital Commission in 1926.

Mildenhall had identified a need for an official photographer for the growing national capital in 1921. He offered his services to the Department of Works & Railways – an offer which was quickly accepted. Often working in his own time, and on an ad hoc basis alongside his full-time clerical position, Mildenhall continued in this role until 1935, when complaints concerning his monopolisation of departmental photography resulted in an inquiry that forced the arrangement to be discontinued.

Contents of the collection

The photographic collection includes images of the construction of buildings that have since become Canberra landmarks; official visits for special events, such as the opening of Parliament House; ceremonies and civic occasions; as well as the public life of the growing community.

You can search the collection for titles of the photographs, and in most cases view a digital image of the photograph. Some examples of captions relating to a number of aspects of early life in Canberra are listed in the table below.

Taking shape

Government buildings

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
PhotoKings Hall, Parliament House, under construction1925A3560, 934
PhotoEast Block Parkes under construction1926A3560, 33
PhotoNational Library, Kings Avenue, Barton1927A3560, 7757

Hearth and home

Community services

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
PhotoMotor ambulance van and driver1926A3560, 17
PhotoAmbulance van showing interior with model patient1926A3560, 177
PhotoFire engine with crew1926A3560, 936
PhotoOperating theatre at Canberra Community Hospital1926A3560, 1630

A duplicate set of 50 images from the Mildenhall collection (mainly images of Canberra in 1927 when the provisional Parliament House was opened) is held by the Archives as series A3348. Additional glass negatives taken by Mildenhall, documenting the early stages of Canberra under construction, are held as series A13848.

Improving captions for the Mildenhall collection

The captions (or titles) of many images in the Mildenhall collection have become lost over time. As a result the descriptive information we have about some of the images is inadequate or incomplete, and in some cases may be incorrect. If you have information to improve a caption, please contact:

National Reference Service
PO Box 4924

Mildenhall's Canberra

Mildenhalls’ Canberra is a joint project between the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and the National Archives, to use the Mildenhall collection to communicate the significance of Canberra’s early development as the national capital. Visit the website to upload your own rephotograph, pinpoint locations and add comments.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019