In 2006 Museums Victoria embarked upon a community collecting project with past and present Melburnians, who searched their private albums for their favourite photographs of Melbourne. Over 1000 family photographs were collected for 'Melbourne's Biggest Family Album'. Selected photographs are featured in the 'Melbourne Story' exhibition.

These wonderful images have opened up many new perspectives on Melbourne's history, and provide evocative, personal insights into life in Melbourne from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. More than just records of individual family life, these photographs are a wonderful resource for exploring the history of communities, places and events.

Featuring approximately 170 Melbourne suburbs, the photographs depict people of all ages, from a range of cultures. Melburnians are captured at home, on the streets, working, celebrating, travelling, playing and mourning. These photographs also show some of our city's hidden histories - people travelling on public transport, hanging out their washing, browsing inside shops, sleeping in their bedrooms, and washing in the bathroom.

Project Background

The Biggest Family Album concept is based around the copying of photographs rather than the donation of originals, meaning that families retain their precious photos, while archival copies are held at the museum. For this project, the copying was done in digital format using a high-resolution digital camera.

The Melbourne collecting project was conducted in partnership with four public libraries, in Beaumaris, Box Hill, Broadmeadows and Footscray. Library staff and local council officers supported and promoted the project, while ABC radio, community newspapers and The Age newspaper assisted with publicity.

Over 120 contributors responded enthusiastically to the invitation to share their photographs, with most bringing several generations of family photographs with them. Contributors also often came along with a family member who could help with accurately documenting the photographs. They brought with them not just photographs, but stories, emotions and a passion about their place in history. More than a few tears were shed as personal anecdotes were remembered and recounted to museum staff.

The Biggest Family Album in Australia Collection

Melbourne's Biggest Family Album Collection was based on The Biggest Family Album in Australia Collection project, undertaken by the museum in the 1980s and 1990s, to collect copies of family photos from rural and regional Victoria. This pioneering project was immensely successful, resulting in a collection of over 9,000 photos dating from the 1890s to the 1940s. These photographs continue to be a resource for the entire community, appearing in education programs, history books, exhibitions, student projects, and community projects.

You can find all the images in Melbourne's Biggest Family Album here.

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