The Fremantle Prison Collection

The Fremantle Prison Collection comprises approximately 20,000 objects, all of which relate to the Fremantle Prison site, its history, and the experiences of those who lived, worked, and were incarcerated here. 

Fremantle Prison seeks to collect, document and interpret the history of the site through preserving, managing and researching the Collection. Conservation and maintenance of the Collection for future generations will allow Fremantle Prison to document the experience of incarceration over a period of 136 years and support academic and curatorial research into the history of Fremantle Prison specifically, and the penal and carceral history of Western Australia more broadly.

Click here to view information about the collection and specific objects on Collections WA

Collection provenance

Items currently held in the Fremantle Prison Collection have been acquired in several ways. They may have been transferred from the Fremantle Prison Museum, which was run jointly by the Department of Corrections and the Fremantle City Council from 1978 until 1992. Items in this category would include the convict material such as clothing, shackles, tools and punishment items like birches and whips.

Another large source of objects now held in the Collection is material that was left onsite by prisoners, staff, and the Department of Corrective Services when the Prison closed in October 1991. These include documents, artworks, tools and furnishings.

Other materials stem from excavations for archaeological exploration or research.  Two notable such examples are the excavation of the basement of the main cell block in 1993, and the cellar of No. 14 The Terrace in 2009. 

The Prison also accepts donations from former staff of the Prison, their families or other members of the public. In very rare cases the Prison may purchase material for the Collection.

Collection Policy

Our Collection Policy guides our approach to managing this important resource. It ensures consistency and effectiveness in preserving the artefacts and stories that make up the tapestry of Fremantle Prison's past.

We invite you to explore our Collection and delve into the fascinating history of Fremantle Prison. Access our Collection Policy here

Significance Assessment

Click here to view a significance assessment of the Fremantle Prison Collection, prepared by Heritage TODAY and the Fremantle Prison Heritage Team, courtesy of an Australian National Library Community Heritage Grant (October 2017).

Prison Art

Fremantle Prison holds a significant collection of prisoner art, including works on canvas, board, and paper; graffiti; murals in cells, yard walls, and in the chapels.

Most of these were created in the last decades of the Prison’s operational life, however the frescoes drawn by James Walsh on a cell’s walls are the only known artworks by a convict in the Prison.

View some of these unique artworks by arranging an exclusive Art Tour, available by request.