Imagine discovering a box containing history lost for years. Then imagine the excitement of Yass Valley Library staff when they recently received a parcel of vintage photos of the region rescued by Americans.

The photos were part of a two million piece archive taken by the Sydney Morning Herald and saved from obscurity in 2017 by Californian gallery owner Daniel Miller.

He and a group of US experts spent the next three years extensively sorting and organising the photographs into bundles to return to Australian libraries, museums and galleries.

“The library had someone reach out to ask if it would be interested in purchasing the photos. We decided to go ahead and received a wonderful folder of goodies after researching to make sure the offer was legitimate and consulting with Yass Valley Council’s strategic planning manager Liz Makin,” Yass Valley Library coordinator Kimberly Hughes said.

That, someone, was an Australian man living in Los Angeles and taking part in Miller’s project. He was eager to see the pictorial history fly home.

It cost the library $600 to purchase the collection, which mostly showcases the town of Yass but also surrounding villages including Wee Jasper and Binalong.

Among the collection are photos of a bygone Yass as a bypass for trucks hurrying past retro shop fronts and along rough roads. Diners inside the Pampered Palate Coffee Shop watch a passing parade of trucks in one of the photos.

“For the sake of the town’s history, this is a precious little present,” Ms Hughes said.

Yass Valley Library will scan the photos to preserve them and make them available digitally. The library will also provide a copy to Yass Archives and consider eventually framing and hanging the photos.

Among the two million pieces were also 96,000 horse racing photos; 65,000 photos of Australian politicians; 2200 photos of Australian architects; 16,000 photos of rugby union players and matches; and 3000 photos of surfers and surf culture.

Institutions that have acquired photographs include the National Library of Australia, Bradman Museum, Sydney Opera House, National War Memorial, Museum of Australian Democracy, Australian Federal Police, The Great Synagogue of Sydney, Lesbian and Gay Archives of Sydney, National Maritime Museum, Sydney Tramway Museum, as well as many other regional libraries.

The Library is now in stage 3 of the reopening plan. There is some seating spread out across the library for people to stay for up to 30 minutes based on current NSW Government guidelines. Opening hours remain the same 10 am-3pm Monday to Friday, with limited access to the public computers.  There is a limit of 30 minutes for each session

You will be required to log into the computer using your library membership details (please bring along your library card)
Not a member? If you live within the Yass Valley LGA, Library staff encourage you to join the library (it’s free!) For those outside the LGA they have limited guest passes available. Please ensure that you sanitise your hands prior to using the computer. Each terminal is limited to one use per day and then placed in quarantine for 24 hours. As availability is limited, staff recommend contacting the library and pre-booking a computer prior to arrival. Simply give the library a call on 6226 1305 and a computer can be reserved for a designated time.