They provide a unique insight into the daily life of the areas photographed from the perspective of the man or woman behind the lens. – Graham Sciberras, ‘A gift of opportunity’, (2014)


The Osborne collection is a series of more than 400 photographs, donated to the RAHS in 2011 by Lyle and Jennie Osborne. The collection was stored in their Narellan Vale family home for over twenty years. At the time of donation the Osbornes were moving house and no longer had the space to keep the collection. Knowing the valuable cultural and historical significance of the items, they contacted the RAHS, where the photographs have been ever since.

As for the prolific photographer? Their identity remains a mystery.

About the Osborne Collection

The collection consists of over 400 photographs, originally in seven albums, from the early 1920s to the late 1930s. The photographs are primarily of the City of Sydney and surrounding places such as the eastern suburbs. Among the photographs there are several images of Newcastle, the Illawarra, the Central Coast and a separate album containing Tenterfield, Inverell, Picton, Boohoo Boonoo Gorge, Brisbane, and travels as far as Malaysia. However, it is unfortunate that the avid photographer’s identity is unknown. The photographer not only captured people and places of the City but often assigned poetic names to these images – Sydney’s brand new Harbour Bridge was christened ‘A Symphony in Steel’. The collection is significant for its ability to generate awareness of what the history of Sydney was like in the interwar years.

All the photographs of Sydney and its surrounding regions can be viewed on the RAHS Flickr or by contacting the librarian. Unfortunately, the Tenterfield photos are not available on Flickr. Please contact the librarian if you would like to view the whole collection.


Graham Sciberras, ‘A gift of opportunity – the Osborne Collection’, History Magazine, Sept. 2014.