Fremantle Society Photographic Survey

In 1978 the Fremantle Society conducted a comprehensive photographic survey of the buildings of Fremantle, Western Australia. This part of the website documents the process of producing this survey, and of digitising its results and getting them online.


The survey began in 1978 under the coordination of Ralph Hoare, with the aim to "create an indexed photographic record of all the residential and other buildings that currently exist in Fremantle, west of the proposed Easten Bypass and excluding the Central Business District, which is already substantially recorded."1

The photographers were given sheets such as the one shown at right, and followed the following instructions:


One of the main reasons for the survey was to evaluate the built environment of fremantle to identify buildings of particular heritage interest. The following classification system was used, with coloured stickers being applied to the photos:

  1. Red dot with black slash: Buildings of outstanding or unusual character and architectural significance. These were to be recommended to the National Trust for immediate classification, and recommended for inclusion on a Council Register.
  2. Red dot: Buildings which should be preserved because of their contribution to the unique character of Fremantle. These were to be recommended for inclusion on a Council Register.
  3. Brown dot: Buildings which should be included on a Council Register of buildings to be preserved because of their potential to be evaluated to 'red dot' classification.
  4. Black dot: Buildings that offer little or no contribution to the unique character of Fremantle.
  5. Yellow dot: Buildings which do not, strictly speaking, fall into category 1, 2, or 3 but which contribute positively to the built environment. These are mainly houses of the Federation period, early 20th Century buildings whose form and materials fit well with the earlier architecture. Some interesting modern buildings are included in this category.
  6. Green dot next to one of the above: These are buildings which were already classified or recorded by the National Trust. Many of these buildings lost their recorded status when the Trust changed to a single classification. Many buildings which were classified when the survey was done are not identified in this way.

Sections and Cells

The survey area was divided into 21 Sections, each of which was subdivided into about half a dozen Cells.

Original boxes

The photos were stored in 9 boxes (until 2021 when they were digitized). Eight boxes were cloth-covered cardboard and a (larger) one was polypropylene. They were labelled as follows:

  1. A to Chester
  2. Christiana to G
  3. H
  4. I - K (pkt unlabelled)
  5. L – Moran
  6. McCabe – Shuffrey
  7. S to Stirling (but not South St)
  8. South St then Suffolk – V
  9. W – Z and West End


In 2012 the Fremantle Society started digitising the collection of prints of photos from the survey, and uploading and cataloguing them on Wikimedia Commons. In 2017 the photos were removed from Commons (for legal reasons — no copyright release forms were signed by the original photographers) and added to ArchivesWiki. In 2021 they were moved from the main part of ArchivesWiki into their own subsite, which is what you are reading now.

The photos were originally stored in nine small green cardboard photograph boxes, the prints edgeways and with nothing separating them. They were ordered by street name and then by street number (i.e. generally zigzagging down roads), with card dividers separating the streets.

The street name and number; classification triple of section, cell, and roll number; and year are all written on the back of each photo. Some photos have extra information written on them. This is either added to the filenames, or if there's lots (or it's illegible) the verso is scanned separately.

A key principal of the digitisation process was to retain the original order and all metadata, but also make it possible to re-organise the photos in a more useful way (for example, often the side of a corner house was photographed while surveying the side street, but it's good to be able to display all photos of the same house together on one web page).

The digitisation process was as follows:

  1. From the participant information sheet