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The Biggest Family Album in Australia Collection

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Image: Negative

Source: Museum Victoria

The Biggest Family Album in Australia project was undertaken by Museum Victoria between 1985 and 1991. It resulted in the collection of copies of over 9,000 photographs from rural and regional Victoria 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.

The Biggest Family Album in Australia (BFA) project aimed to document Victorian history and culture using family photographs. Commencing in 1985 and continuing until 1991, rural and regional locations in Victoria were indentified and two Museum Victoria staff were stationed at each area for two weeks. At each location staff copied images and collected the associated information using a one page worksheet. The project was promoted with each area before staff arrived to undertake copying and recording work.

The criteria used for selecting images was that they contained information about people, their activities at work, home and play, and the built environment. Landscapes and portraits, particularly studio shots, were not copied as part of the BFA project, as it was felt they did not meet the aims of the project.

The BFA project was conducted to increase the representation of images of everyday life, taken by ordinary people, in Victoria's State Collection. These types of images are a unique and highly significant historical resource, and provide insights into domestic and working life, education, recreation, travel, settlement and much more. As these types of images degrade significantly with time, this project was a means of preserving these images and their associated information before it was lost or forgotten.

The collection comprises over 9,000 copy negatives, with the originals remaining with the owners. In 2006 a related project, Melbourne's Biggest Family Album. collected approximately 1,200 images of Melbourne's history using the same collecting methodology.

All of the images from both collections are digitised and accessible through the Museum Victoria website and Picture Australia.

Several publications have resulted from the project:
Bate, Weston (1989). Having a Go! Bill Boyd's Mallee, Museum of Victoria
McConville, Chris (1988). Mum and Dad Made History, Museum of Victoria
Museum of Victoria (1990). The Biggest Family Album in Australia, Museum of Victoria
Pitts, Lillian Louisa (1990). Merrigum Frank, Museum of Victoria

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