Discovering Mildenhall’s Canberra
Our new website Discovering Mildenhall’s Canberra is a collaborative venture between the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and the National Archives of Australia. Our aim is to allow the community to actively experience and engage with the creation of the Old Parliament House building and the early development of Canberra as Australia’s capital through a significant—and large—set of photographs: the Mildenhall collection.
Through Discovering Mildenhall’s Canberra, visitors can engage with the Mildenhall collection in a number of ways—so the website has a range of social media-like functionality. People can participate by:
- using mapping to locate the photographs;
- amending metadata and adding context to the images through comments;
- tagging and favouriting images; and
- adding images of the same places (re-photography).
The website also contributes to planning for the Centenary of Canberra in 2013. We hope that by then, the information added to the Mildenhall photographs will both enrich the collection itself and make a significant contribution to Canberra 100.
The Mildenhall photographs document most aspects of the foundation era in Canberra’s history as the new capital city of Australia. The collection comprises more than 7,700 images on glass plate negatives, taken by William James Mildenhall (1891–1962) in the 1920s and 1930s. The Mildenhall photographs are of significant cultural and historical value to Australians and provide a fascinating insight into the development of our capital city and the people who built it.
Mildenhall joined the Commonwealth Public Service soon after it was established, in 1906 and moved to Canberra in 1921, taking up the position of Paymaster and Collector of Public Monies in the Department of Works and Railways Canberra office. Mildenhall was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and his first work for the government was done in his own time, in return for the cost of photographic supplies such as plates and developing chemicals. In 1926 he was appointed as the official photographer and information officer of the Federal Capital Commission, formed to oversee Canberra’s development.