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History of the State Library of South Australia: Exhibitions

Details the Library's interesting history from 1834, its buildings, legislation, Board membership, staff and exhibitions.

Mortlock Wing exhibitions

The exhibition bays in the historic Mortlock Wing open a window into the history and culture of South Australia, featuring the people, places, issues and events that have contributed to the state's development. The exhibition bays showcase the richness and breadth of State Library collections, with historical and contemporary materials used to illustrate particular themes.

Comprising nearly 1,000 items, the exhibition bay themes highlight areas of particular relevance to South Australia, and largely reflect State Library collection strengths providing an entree into those collections. The themes are:

A trunk full of books
(State Library history)

A rich tapestry

Wooden walls & iron sides

South Australia's Christian heritage

Taking it to the edge

To be a child
(Children's literature & games)

The radical dream
(Social & political reform)

This sporting life

State of the arts
(Arts & culture)

Wine literature of the world

From the ground up


The State Library aims to ensure the permanent preservation of its collections both in storage and when exhibited. Every effort has been made to house exhibited items within international standard showcases and the appropriate environments to enable the longevity of items for future generations.

Treasures Wall



The Treasures Wall is located on Level 1 of the Spence Wing and is 24 metres long and 2.5 metres high. It is itself is a 'treasure', with 40 individual panels featuring South Australian natural materials and industries. Materials used on the wall panels include abalone shell, bluestone, coal, cattle hide, copper, green glass, gold, granite, grapevine prunings, iron ore, lead, limestone, opal, quartz composite, salt, silver, slate, steel: car duco, talc, wheat, wool and zinc.

Collection items showcased in Treasures Wall exhibitions come from the collections of the State Library of South Australia. It celebrates the remarkable depth and diversity of the collections by presenting a selection of items drawn from the wealth of Library holdings, including rare books, manuscripts, archival materials, artworks, artefacts, photographs, and printed ephemera.

The materials displayed comprise only a fraction of the items held in the State Library. Exhibits demonstrate the Library's key role in collecting, preserving and providing access to the community's cultural heritage.


Ron Boland newspaper exhibition

The Ron Boland exhibition is in the Ron Boland Newspaper Reading Area located on Level 1 of the Spence Wing.

Mr Ron Boland OBE (1911-2000) was an influential figure in South Australian journalism. He joined The News as a copy boy in 1926, and progressed to reporter, sports writer, sports editor, news editor and, in 1960, became managing editor. In 1968, he was appointed managing director, a position he held until his retirement in 1977, after almost 51 years with News Limited.

The exhibition has two sections.

A life in print—Ronald Raymond Boland OBE celebrates Ron Boland’s long-standing career as a newspaperman. The Boland family have loaned memorabilia, and they and Ron’s former colleagues provided information for this section.

The news in print—The making of a newspaper highlights newspaper production. Lantern slides of newspaper production at around 1900 contrast with images of production over one hundred years later, in 2003. Advertiser Newspapers Limited donated an Intertype typesetting machine for display in this section, which also features a timeline of world and local events that marked history over Ron’s lifetime.