Introducing Pandora: Australia’s Web Archive

My blog series focuses on some of my favourite free Australasian family history research websites, and this month’s focus continues with an internet theme. This time we are looking at Pandora: Australia’s Web Archive which was established by the National Library of Australia in 1996.

In more recent times it has been possible to search and find things in Pandora by using Trove and the zone Archived Websites (1996-now). However, I am still a fan of searching archived websites by subject. This gives a much more structured search and is good if you are researching a broad subject area.

Subjects in Pandora

Depending on your research interests, it is possible that almost every subject category could be of interest. Those subjects of more likely interest to genealogists and family historians include:

  • Arts
  • Education
  • History
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Society and Social Issues.

Each of the subject categories are further subdivided. For example, within History there are six subcategories with the following of most interest to family historians:

  • Family history & Genealogy
  • Local history
  • Military history.

Victorian Star Mine, progress works, 1906, no. H42834/53, image courtesy State Library Victoria.


There is also a section titled Collections where various State Library online exhibitions have been captured. Browsing the exhibition titles indicates they have much to offer in the way of background context for our families in local communities. Of most interest to me were the two collections – Historic gold mining plots (77) and Historic gold mining sites (34). The numbers indicate the number of entries in each topic and both sites relate primarily to the Victorian goldfields.

Military History

At the time of writing this blog post, the subcategory Military history had 430 archived websites on a wide variety of military topics including squadrons, battalions and individuals. Most of the Collections in this category related to the Centenary of World War One.

End of World War One celebrations in Brisbane, Queensland, 1918, neg. no. 99441, photo courtesy State Library Queensland.

Local History

There were 700 archived websites in this section and there is a facility to browse broad subjects. There are individual genealogy blogs, genealogy and family history groups, individuals, events, and places to mention just a few. Browse the list to see just how diverse this category is. It is also possible to search Trove while in Pandora. For example, I searched for Gympie and there were over 2500 archived websites that related to Gympie in some way.

Family History & Genealogy

This category was smaller with only 262 archived websites, but it does include websites relating to specific families or individuals. If a site no longer exists, then this may be the place to look in case it was archived at least once by the National Library of Australia. If the website is still in existence, then you should also check out the present website for current information.

Missing Information from Websites

Have you ever had the experience of having seen something on a website, and then found that it has been taken down? This is where archived websites can be of most use, providing that the missing information was captured during one of the archiving sessions. Some websites have only been captured once, while others have been captured multiple times over the years.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine can also be used for this purpose too. I have found it particularly useful when state government archives and libraries update their websites. Invariably it is hard to find what was easily found before. In this instance I simply go back in time via the Wayback Machine, to before the change over or upgrade. Then when time permits I explore the new website and how it all interrelates.

Street march to celebrate World War One victory, Brisbane, Queensland, 1918, neg. no. 204086, photo courtesy State Library Queensland


We can spend hours researching using Google and current websites. Archived websites may also be a useful resource for genealogy and family history research. If you have not looked at Pandora: Australia’s Archived Websites maybe it is time you did. Researching outside Australia, then try the Wayback Machine.

Good luck!

Shauna Hicks

About Shauna Hicks

Shauna Hicks has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and worked in government for over 35 years in libraries and archives in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. Since retiring, she has written a number of family history guides and is a regular speaker at genealogy cruises, conferences and seminars. She now operates her own business at and is the author of the blog, Diary of an Australian Genealogist.

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