Australasian collections

New Zealand Paddles, from A Collection of Drawings made in the Countries visited by Captain Cook on his First Voyage, 1768-1771 (Add. 23920)
New Zealand Paddles, from A Collection of Drawings made in the Countries visited by Captain Cook on his First Voyage, 1768-1771 (Add. 23920)

Our collections relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands cover many significant elements of the history of these areas, especially subsequent to contact with European explorers and settlers.

About the collection

The collection is particularly strong on early British exploration of the South Pacific and the culture of Polynesian and Aboriginal groups (as well as the effects of colonialism on these groups). It includes material from the Endeavour expedition of Captain James Cook as a result of Sir Joseph Banks’s library being donated to the British Museum. The Banks library is an important resource for the study of European exploration and the landscapes and cultures with which the explorers came into contact.

Later materials cover the colonial settlement of Australia and New Zealand, and the role of these areas in scientific exploration (including that of Charles Darwin) and Antarctic exploration. We have manuscripts from Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, missionary materials for use in colonial Australasia and valuable Australasian official publications noting developments of the 19th and 20th centuries, to name a few.

The Library continues to acquire material from Australia, New Zealand and across the Pacific Islands and it has significant amounts of maps, printed books, newspapers, photographs, journals, magazines, sounds and philatelic materials detailing various subjects of consideration in Australasian Studies.

What is available online?

Most of the Australasian material can be found using the online catalogues, Explore the British Library and Explore Manuscripts and Archives.

Use Explore the British Library to search for printed books, maps, topographical views, newspapers, magazines, journals and even photographs held by the Library. A large amount of the Australasian material on Explore the British Library is also linked to subject markers which will help readers in gathering a wider range of material from the collection.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Given the wide range of Australasian materials found at the Library, access to the collections is in various reading rooms. Humanities 1 & 2 are used for most contemporary books and journals, Rare Books and Music for pre-1850 printed books, Social Sciences for government and official publications and Manuscripts, Maps and Newspapers are for these specific material types.

How to guides

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

How to apply for an under 18 Reader Pass

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