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Victorian Archives Centre public opening hours

Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
(excl. public holidays)
The second and last Saturday of every month

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Searching Online for Records

Searching Online for Records

There are six ways of searching in PROV’s Online Catalogue. These are available under Searching in the main menu of the Access the Collection page.  The search options are:

  • Simple Search
  • Advanced Search
  • Search by Agency
  • Find by Number
  • Search Within a Series
  • Browse the Collection

There are generally two main approaches to searching for records using PROV’s online resources.

The first approach suits researchers who have a subject area in mind (E.g. Immigration; Wills; Goldfields) but do not have a reference to a specific file. You may not even know what records we have relating to your subject area. In this case, begin your journey using our Start your research page. You may also take a look at the PROVwiki, which offers answers to FAQs as well as articles relating to records within our collection.

The second approach is to search the Online Catalogue directly, which suits researchers who have some information about a particular record or series of records within the PROV collection, such as a VPRS (Victorian Public Record Series) number; a file number; or words from a file name. If you do not already understand the difference between VPRS, Consignment, Unit, and File, then it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with PROV’s Archival Control Model first.

When searching in the online catalogue, you are searching the PROV Archival Control System for contextual information about the archives of the government of Victoria.  Contextual information includes: what records were created; who created them and why; how they were used; and how they relate to other records.  See PROVguide 66 PROV’s Archival Control Model for more information about archival terminology.

For more information about researching at PROV, explore the online New Researcher Kit and the Start your Research online pathway.

Simple Search

This search allows you to carry out a broad search for records within our collection.  The search is carried out across all areas of the collection (physical and digital records), and includes all archival types; Agencies, Groups, Functions, Series and Items. Your search will produce a list of entries relating to your selection, called a Search Results page.  Each entry is hyperlinked to a Details page containing relevant information.

Advanced Search

Advanced Search can look in the same fields and categories as a Simple Search, however it allows you to narrow and broaden your search with a range of parameters. Your search will produce a list of entries relating to your selection, called a Search Results page. Each entry is hyperlinked to a Details page containing relevant information. See HOW TOguide 21 for information on how to order from a Search Result page.

Searching by Agency

If you know the Agency which created the records you are interested in, searching by Agency can be a useful place to start. By locating the responsible Victorian Agency (VA) in the catalogue, you can determine what records, open to public access, have been transferred to PROV and are available for ordering and viewing in the reading room.

Find by Number

Find by Number takes you directly to the Details page of a Function, Group, Agency or Series if you know the VF, VG, VA or VPRS number, respectively. For example, if you were looking for the Public Works Committee (VA 4091) you could select ‘Agency’ and type in the VA number to locate the Details pages. If a result could not be found, a Search Results page with some searching hints and tips will be displayed.

Search within a Series

This search allows you to search for keywords or numbers within a particular Series, where the Series number is known.  This method is useful to locate an individual file or object within a Series, such as a school building file, as explained in HOW TOguide 21.

Browse the Collection

The Browse the Collection option allows you to scan an alphabetical list of Series, Agencies, Groups or Functions.  This method could be useful for first-time users. If you are not sure what area you are interested in, you might find it useful to scan a list of Functions or Agencies to locate the entries relevant to your area of research.

Searching using Wildcards

Within the Start your Research pathway, the indexes automatically conduct a Boolean search so that, for example, ‘smith’ will find any names that begin, include or end with ‘smith’ (i.e. Smith, Angelsmith, Hague Smith, Smithgate). However: when you are conducting a direct search into the Online Catalogue using any of the six options outlined above, you must add in your own wildcard.

Further information:

See HOW TOguide 21 for instruction on using the search options outlined in this PROVguide. See PROVguide 21 for information about ordering records.

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