Reconstructing Victorian Newcastle – 6 November 2012 – 9 December 2012

Scan this image with LAYAR

The forthcoming Exhibition Reconstructing Victorian Newcastle will be launched at the Newcastle Museum and run from the 6 November 2012 – 9 December 2012.

It features the work of Dr Tessa Morrison and her team of App developers working on the Snowball glass negatives. Dr Morrison is a senior lecturer and Research Fellow in Architectural History in the University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment. Mr Russell Rigby, from Geology and a member of the University’s Coal River Working Party assisted in the geo-referencing amd mapping of hundreds of the University’s Ralph Snowball images. See:

If you have a smartphone, iphone or ipad, download a free app from the app store called Layar. Nicholas Foulcher (the IT student and app developer working with Dr Morrison) sent through some brief instructions yesterday through twitter.

“Reconstructing Victorian Newcastle App is Live! Download Layar for Free and scan this image to try before November 6th!”

Once the app is installed on your phone, use the app to scan the test image above to try out the program.

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

Windows to another time – Ralph Snowball’s Glass Negatives

Top men, Raspberry Gully, NSW, 24 June 1898

Day Shift – 19/05/2009 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist University of Newcastle

Newcastle University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the work to date on the Norm Barney Photographic Collection that was donated to the University’s Cultural Collections in June 2008. The Collection consists of around 990 glass negatives from Newcastle Photographer Ralph Snowball, and thousands more regular negatives from the Collections of Norm Barney and his friend and colleague Bert Lovett.

Broadcast Notes:

There are a number of collections of Ralph Snowball’s images throughout the region in private collections as well as public, most notable is the collection in Local Studies in Newcastle Public Library and available through Hunter Photobank.

This particular Collection of around 990 extraordinary glass slides forms part of Norm Barney’s Photographic Collection that was deposited with the University’s Cultural Collections in June 2008.

To view our progress to date and see the larger images please visit our flickr site (make sure to click the ‘all sizes’ tab:

These are the largest images of this kind available online anywhere, we are proud to present these photographic masterpieces to the wider community. They are so big you can pick the the breadcrumbs out of the beards!

Wallsend Number 1 tunnel, Wallsend, NSW, 11 June 1897

Wallsend Number 1 tunnel, Wallsend, NSW, 11 June 1897

Originally more than 8,000 glass negatives were stored in the cellar of Ralph Snowball’s Clarence Rd house. Most had not seen the light of day since Snowball’s death in 1925 right up until the beginning of 1989 when around the 800 or so boxes were rediscovered by Norm Barney and Bert Lovett.

Most were of two sizes: whole plate, approximately 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in (21.6 x 16.5cm) and half plate, approximately 6 1/2mx 4 1/2 in (16.5 x 12.7 cm).

All were examined and around 2000 were subsequently dumped due to being destroyed by a combination of age and dampness. We estimate that around 5000 were donated to Newcastle City Council’s local history library.

A total of around 990 glass plates remained with Norm Barney in 44 boxes, the ‘cream of the crop’ that was kept with the family to prepare Norm Barney’s publications. Included are also some archival registers and notebooks belonging to Ralph Snowball.

”]Municipal Baths, Newcomen Street, Newcastle, NSW, [n.d.]Over the years these were cleaned, listed, wrapped in acid-free paper, reboxed and placed in metal cupboards and eventually deposited with the University in June 2008 by the widow of the late Norm Barney, Mrs Daphne Barney.


Norm Barney and Bert Lovett were able to identify most of the names, dates and places with the help of the surviving notebooks, details on some of the old boxes, and Ralph Snowball’s habit of writing on some of the negatives.

In addition to the Snowball Glass Negatives (990 images), inscribed box lids (3 boxes) and notebooks (1 box) the collection also includes negatives from the private collections of Norm Barney and Bert Lovett (approx 7000 items).

John Scholey's house, Mayfield, NSW, 7 November 1900

John Scholey's house, Mayfield, NSW, 7 November 1900

We currently have employed a qualified conservator to document the condition of the glass negatives, clean and re-house them. A digitiser to scan the glass negatives at a minimum of 300-600 dpi and import the jpgs (or optimised image files) in to our online Flickr site, and a cataloguer to create library catalogue entries for them in the University Library’s Newcat catalogue. After this process the glass negatives will be retired into the safety and preservation of archive boxes for long term storage.

To view more of these amazing images of Newcastle and the Hunter Region please visit our flickr site (make sure to click the ‘all sizes’ tab:

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

Media Stories

'Glimpse of an era long gone' Newcastle Herald 11 September 2010 pp 22-23


'Found: the lost photos' Herald Feature by Mike Scanlon 18 September 2010 p.10

'Pictures for posterity' by Jill Stowell Newcastle Herald 18 September 2010 p.18