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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

Final Month of Mos to Mullets Exhibition

This is the final month of the Victorian Archive Centre’s first collaborative photographic exhibition at their new VAC Gallery, a space dedicated to exhibiting the state government’s archived photographic collections, alongside contemporary street photography. 

The free exhibition Hair: from Mos to Mullets, charts the evolution of hairstyles from the dashing bearded men of 1880 to the freedom singing hippies a century later. The theme was aptly chosen for the important role it plays in archival research. For archivists, hairstyles are a helpful indicator of a photo’s time period, particularly given most government photographs arrive with little information on when the photo was taken, and of whom. Often the subtle changes in a hairstyle will help pin point a date period to within a few years.

The exhibition also places the photographs within their social context, hair being a symbolic marker of social change underway within society. The modern Mohawk, for example, is commonly linked with the punk scene and emerged during the mid-1970s, part of a broader movement against the political conservative establishment of the time, while a Short-Back-And-Sides cut with a clean shaven face became common during the First World War. Cropped military hairstyles reduced the spread of lice, maintained uniformity and gave soldiers a semblance of cleanliness.

The VAC Gallery, produced by a team of PROV staff members, also contrasts Melbourne history with the landscapes and people of contemporary Melbourne. Following an invitation to urban street photographic networks to submit photographs on the theme of ‘hair’ , visitors also enjoy a wall of stunning street photographic prints from members of the public interpreting hair from across the City.  The photographic exhibition Hair: from Mos to Mullets will close in March. 




The Short-Back-And-Sides: Victorian Railways Commission 1883-1973, Public Transport Corporation Photographic Collection, Man With Artificial Arm With Saw Attached Cutting Wood, c1920. VPRS 12903 P1/Box 623-11



The Mohawk: Education Department, Education History Unit (1985-1992), Richard playing guitar for summer mag. 1988, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 14518 P1 Unit 1


What is the history of government photography in Victoria?

 In the late 1830s as Melbourne plotted its transformation from a simple farming settlement into a well designed city, an extraordinary technological feat was capturing the world’s attention: the science of photography.

At this parallel point in history Louis Daguerre was capturing the first photographic image, in 1839, a Parisian street scene so clear one could see a man polishing shoes. Over the following forty years advancements in photographic technology moved from lengthy exposure times with glass plate negatives, to the beginning of celluloid film; our ability to replicate the real world, exactly as we saw it, became possible.

By the 1860s Governments began to include photographers within their teams, and the timing for Melbourne couldn’t have been better. Unlike Sydney, Melbourne’s foundational development was captured in photographs. Much of these preserved here at the Victorian Archives Centre.

Although family portrait photography was popular with the middle class, government photographers were tasked with recording major developments like railroads, ports, and new schools. The consequence of these early street landscapes is the inclusion of the average person: the newspaper seller, women rushing to work, or men on the docks. Usually nameless, government photographers were focussed on the task of capturing public projects rather than individuals.

The camera also served a practical purpose for police departments in the late 1800s, with the emergence of forensic photography and mug shot (rogue) galleries. Today, these police photographs are significant as a time machine into the under class of early Melbourne, or in the case of Ned Kelly the plight of the Irish poor, or even early Chinese immigration.

By the 20th Century the power of photos to influence behaviour began to creep into government collections. Although government photographers continued to document public works, agencies were also commissioned to shoot staged models for advertising or social campaigns, promoting anything from milk to train travel.

Today, they’re fashionable. These black and white images of early Melbourne decorate expensive note pads and tote bags. They appeal to our need for connection, bringing us together over a shared love of the place we live and a fascination with its history. 

Kate Follington 

Ballarat Prison Registers conservation

Photo of Ballarat Gaol

Image of Ballarat Gaol courtesy of SLV


Between November 2015 and July 2016, The University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation undertook work on the conservation of ten of PROV’s Ballarat Personal Descriptions of Prisoners Received books, or prison registers (from the series VPRS 10859).

The registers date back to 1858 and cover 84 years of Ballarat history featuring the names and details of thousands of men and women who went through the walls of Ballarat Gaol.

Information contained within the series

The books provide a record, including a personal description, of prisoners received into custody at Ballarat Gaol, including:

  • the annual gaol number
  • prisoner’s name
  • physical description
  • prisoner’s arrival details into the Colony including the name of the ship and the year
  • date of birth
  • condition on arrival being free or bond
  • a reference to the most recent entry into prison
  • education details
  • particular marks
  • native place
  • religion
  • trade or calling
  • admission details
  • date of conviction
  • sentence
  • discharge.

Crimes vary from indecent language and larceny, through to murder and manslaughter.

Mould damage

At some point in their lifetime, the books have been damaged by water causing mould to cover the surface of the books and inside pages.

This video gives you a sneak peek at what was involved in cleaning the mould and repairing weakened pages.

By conserving these records they are ready for our staff and volunteers to handle when digitising. Once they are digitised they will be made available online for researchers to easily access.

New Higher Education RDA

graduationAbout the new RDA

PROV has released a new Retention and Disposal Authority (RDA) to authorise disposal of records created and held by Victorian higher and further education institutions which are subject to the Public Records Act 1973. This includes the universities (University of Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe, Deakin) dual sector universities (Swinburne, Victoria, RMIT and Federation University) and Victorian TAFE Institutes.

The new RDA, PROS 16/07 Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of the Higher and Further Education Functions completely replaces PROS 02/01. It covers records documenting the provision of higher and further education, conduct of research and closely related functions.

Development of the RDA

The RDA was developed by a subcommittee within the Victorian Higher Education Records Management and Archives Group (VHERMAG) in consultation with PROV.

PROV thanks VHERMAG for their work and contribution to the development of the RDA.

Using the new RDA

Generally records that have been sentenced under PROS 02/01 do not need to be re-sentenced. However records sentenced as permanent under PROS 02/01, and proposed for transfer to PROV, may require re-sentencing before transfer to confirm permanent status.

All public offices that conduct research in collaboration with educational institutions, or the equivalent level of research, may use this new RDA to authorise the disposal of records created in the conduct and management of research.


PROVisualizer: an interactive archival data visualisation tool

Public Record Office Victoria’s PROVisualizer tool, as far as we know, is the first interactive archival data visualisation tool in Australia. It is a handy tool to get a sense of the kinds of public records PROV holds.

You can search by keyword or by government function and then click through to see the series within the collection. Importantly PROVisualizer gives archivists and record keepers a taste of what the recent Records-in-Context ICA standard could look like, as it is based on a graph of entity inter-relationships as opposed to a hierarchical model.

PROVisualizer screenshot


The PROVisualizer in practice

The tool has already proved useful for researchers and academics.

Helen Harris OAM, a highly experienced researcher believes PROVisualizer will make exploring the archives for beginners a much easier prospect enabling almost Google type searches based on keywords and topics such as (Teacher Record) or (Melbourne Olympics).

“This makes PROV searches so much easier, particularly for beginners who tend to get lost in trying to follow things on the current site.  To be able to search something fairly broad, then hone in on the interconnected records and bring up the relevant Series so quickly is a major advance.” 

Changes in Victorian Government

For Victorian Government recordkeepers, the tool is extremely useful for tracking changes to government departments and responsibilities.

Writer, historian, researcher and educator Sarah Mirams has used PROVisualizer to explore Machinery of Government changes, for example changes to responsibilities around environment:

“The PROVualiser gives you an understanding of how government records are shifted around and responsibilities absorbed into different parts of government. I searched under the broad theme of environment and found a very broad ranges of functions to explore further.”

For government record keepers who are particularly interested in Machinery of Government changes over time, you can filter the results by year e.g. 1850, 1900, 1950 and see the ‘explosion’ of Agencies responsible for Education in Victoria.

Another example is the search of consumer affairs, if you filter by year the PROVisualizer will take you on a journey through the administration changes in this agency. Any agency can do the same.  

Try the PROVisualizer and contact us

If you use the tool  or embed it into your own website (a simple copy and paste!), we’d love to hear all about it either on twitter by using the #provisualizer hashtag or by emailing Asa Letourneau at

The case of Alfred Bye

Mug shot of Alfred Bye

Alfred Bye, Central Register of Male Prisoners

Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973, files of a personal or private nature are closed from between 75 to 99 years to prevent the violation of personal privacy. On the 1st of January 2017, another year of files was opened to the public for the first time. The following record is included in this year’s openings:

A capital case  

Alfred Bye’s capital case file is one of three 1941 capital files now open, he was executed on the 22nd of December 1941 for stabbing his love rival to death.

Lost love

In 1930, returned WW1 soldier Alfred Bye became engaged to a woman named Amelia Ogier. The marriage never eventuated with Amelia growing tired of Alfred’s gambling habit, she broke off their engagement after three years together.

The pair didn’t speak for some years and Amelia became involved with another soldier, Thomas Walker. Upon learning of their involvement, Alfred begged Amelia to give him another chance and marry him. 

According to the Medical Officer Report within the case file:

“Bye admits that he was extremely jealous of Walker whom he believed to be preventing Miss Ogier from marrying him. Bye states that soon after his first meeting with Walker on the 23rd August 1941 Walker told him that he would fight Bye for Miss Ogier. Bye informs me that it was as a result of this incident that he purchased the knife with the intention of using it on Walker when the occasion arose. He delayed doing so for a month because he still had hopes for gaining the affections of Miss Ogier.”

According to testimony within the case file, Bye met with Miss Ogier a number of times begging her to marry him. She refused each time. 


The murder

Report relative to Prisoner Alfred Bye:

“On the 27th September 1941 she (Miss Ogier) was walking along Swanston St, Melbourne, with Walker and her two nieces, when Bye approached and drew her to one side. He told her that he had made an allotment of his military pay to her. Walker came up and after some conversation between the two men, Bye made an attempt to strike Walker, but Miss Ogier influenced the men not to fight. The party then continued to the Princess Theatre, Spring St, Melbourne, leaving Bye standing in the street. Five minutes after they had entered the theatre, Walker left saying that he was going out for a smoke. Apparently Bye had followed them as outside the theatre the two men met. They proceeded to the Treasury Gardens and after a heated argument, they commenced to fight. During the struggle, Bye stabbed Walker a number of times with a knife inflicting injuries which resulted in his death. After throwing the knife away, Bye went to the Spencer St Railway Station and later returned to Bacchus Marsh on the 11-25 pm train.”   

The case, and execution, made headline news at the time.

Bye was captured and stood trial. The Inspector General Penal and Gaols Department report has some interesting things to say about Bye, referring to him as ‘low grade’ and ‘subnormal’:

“My observations of him are based entirely upon my interviews with him.

Intelligence and Schooling.
He is definitely subnormal. I judge him to be a low grade moron and like most such persons his is possessed of much low cunning. He lies readily but it is comparatively easy to circumvent him and cause him to contradict himself. His conversation is halting and his vocabulary very limited. His memory is poor and disjointed. He admits that he did not do well at school finding it very difficult to learn lessons. He has never read a book and, in any case, he can read only very simple words.

He is emotional, inclined to hysteria and given to self pity. He does a good deal of weeping and moaning. He appears to be very irritable, stubborn and at times jealous. He did not realise the full significance of his plight until his solicitors advised him not to appeal but to be prepared for the worst. Then he broke down, but I have reason to believe that much of his distress and most of his complaints were simulated.

His Crime.
He says “I did not mean to kill him. We went to have a fight. I took the knife with me. He was bigger than me. Walker had a bottle of beer and we shared it before the fight. He was too strong for me. He grabbed me by the throat. So I took my knife and used it.” One can understand this futile, weak, irritable, obstinate, jealous, low grade man striking and striking until his insane fury is satiated. The description I have given of him does not mean that he is a certifiable mental deficient. In a limited environment he could earn his living and with proper teaching in – early youth he could have managed his affairs prudently. But he is far below the standard of a desirable citizen.”

Death sentence and execution

Alfred Bye was sentenced to death for the murder of Thomas Walker. He was executed on the 22nd of December 1941 at Pentridge.


Victoria’s hidden history revealed through newly opened archives

alfred-bye-capital-case-file-prov-vprs-1100-p2-unit-13-front-pageHundreds of historic State Government archives have been made public as part of Public Record Office Victoria’s annual opening of officially closed records. The records are of particular interest to family historians waiting on files that mention members of their family tree.

Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973 files of a personal or private nature are closed from between 75 to 99 years to prevent the violation of personal privacy. On the 1st of January 2017, another year of files was opened to the public for the first time. Director and Keeper of Public Records, Justine Heazlewood, said this year’s openings may provide researchers with missing pieces of their family history puzzle.

“These newly opened records provide a snapshot into our State’s history. From the capital cases that made headlines in 1941 to divorces of Ballarat – these annual openings provide a new opportunity to discover our past,” said Ms Heazlewood.

Among this year’s openings are Criminal Trial Briefs relating to Pentridge prison escapee Kenneth Raymond Jones, the capital case file of Alfred Bye executed for the murder of Tommy Walker, Divorce Case Files from Melbourne and Ballarat Courts of 1941, Post Mortem Registers from Kew Hospital and Tramway and Victorian Railroads Employee Records.

“There are so many incredible stories to be found in Victoria’s archives. These records of the past now serve to help researchers, academics, writers and historians discover another dimension to years gone by,” said Ms Heazlewood.

A broad guide to time periods for closure under Section 9 is as follows:

  • Records primarily concerning adults may be closed for 75 years from the year in which the records were created.
  • Records concerning children as the primary subject of the record may be closed for 99 years from the year in which the records were created.
  • Records such as staff records where the individuals concerned may still be in the workforce may be closed for a lesser period such as 30, 40, or 50 years as appropriate.

See below for a full list of opened records:

Record Title


Date Range

Criminal Trial Briefs
(VPRS 30 P0000 Units 2928-2974)


Inward Registered Correspondence
(VPRS 266 P0001 Units 35-51)


Divorce Case Files, Melbourne
(VPRS 283 P0002 Units 320-339)


Children’s Court Register
(VPRS 329 P0000 Unit 2)


Central Register of Male Prisoners
(VPRS 515 P0000 Unit 94)


Register of Names, Particulars and Personal Descriptions of Prisoners
(VPRS 521 P0000 Units 76-78)


Index To Register Of Prisoners Received
(VPRS 526 P0000 Units 8 and 10)


Divorce Case Files, Ballarat
(VPRS 552 P0001 Unit 6)


Examination Registers (Technical Subjects)
(VPRS 923 P0003 Units 1-13)


Capital Sentence Files
(VPRS 1100 P0002 Unit 13)


Wages Records
(VPRS 1752 P0000 Units 1-19)


Children’s Court Registers, Richmond
(VPRS 1792 P0000 Unit 10)

Feb 1916-Jun 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Prahran
(VPRS 1941 P0000 Unit 6)

Sept 1915-April 1917

Children’s Court Register, Berringa
(VPRS 2519 P0000 Unit 1)


Criminal Trial Brief Register II
(VPRS 3524 P0000 Unit 49)


Criminal Trial Brief Register II
(VPRS 3524 P0001 Unit 49) 
This is a microfiche copy of the unit above, no need to order it, just come in and view in our North Melb Reading Room.


Master Patient Index Cards
(VPRS 3848 P0000 Units 110-115)


Ward Registers
(VPRS 4527 P0000 Units 125-130)

Nov 1916-Nov 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Stawell
(VPRS 5025 P0000 Unit 2)


Divorce Cause Books
(VPRS 5334 P0001 Unit 9)

Sept 1939-Feb 1941

Children’s Court Registers
(VPRS 6063 P0001 Unit 11)

Feb 1916-May 1917

Post Mortem Registers, Kew Mental Hospital
(VPRS 7432 P0001 Unit 19)

Jan 1939-Jul 1941

Head Attendant’s Daily Report Books Male Department, Kew Mental Hospital
(VPRS 7440 P0002 Unit 13)


Registers of Voluntary Boarders in Hospitals for the Insane
(VPRS 7515 P0001 Unit 2)


Head Nurse’s Daily Report Book – Female Wards,
Kew Mental Hospital
(VPRS 7692 P0001 Unit 22)

Nov 1940-Dec 1941

Bound Circulated Photographs and Offences of Convicted Persons
(VPRS 7856 P0001 Units 43-44)

Dec 1940-Sept 1941

Nursing Report Books – Female, Sunbury Mental Hospital
(VPRS 8252 P0001 Unit 5)

Nov 1940-Nov 1941

Admission Warrants – Male, Sunbury Mental Hospital
(VPRS 8259 P0001 Unit 21)

Mar 1939-May 1941

Admission Warrants – Female, Sunbury Mental Hospital
(VPRS 8261 P0001 Unit 21)

May 1939-May 1941


Presentments, Supreme Court
(VPRS 10008 P0001 Units 52-54)


Children’s Court Registers, Camperdown
(VPRS 10367 P0000 Unit 1)

1907-Aug 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Williamstown
(VPRS 10589 P0000 Unit 4)

June 1916-Oct 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Warrnambool
(VPRS 10621 P0000 Unit 2)

June 1916-Jan 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Ararat
(VPRS 10741 P0000 Unit 1)

1907-Nov 1917

Personal Description of Prisoners Received Book, Ballarat
(VPRS 10859 P0000 Unit 16)

These records are currently undergoing conservation, check out our video for more information on the process:

July 1935-May 1941

Children’s Court Registers, Sale
(VPRS 11609 P0001 Unit 1)

1907-Feb 1917

Children’s Court Registers, Carlton
(VPRS 12610 P0001 Unit 1)

1908-July 1917

Tramway Employees Record Cards
(VPRS 12739 P0001 Units 69-76)


Correspondence with Australian Railway Union
(VPRS 13279 P0001 Unit 7)


Accident Compensation Claim Register, Claims Branch
(VPRS 13531 P0001 Unit 20)


Accident Compensation Claim Book
(VPRS 13536 P0001 Unit 7)


Employment History Sheets, Photographic Division
(VPRS 13997 P0001 Unit 1)


In-Patient Death Registers
(VPRS 16817 P0002 Unit 1)

July 1979-Feb 1986

Board Minutes, Physiotherapists Registration Board
(VPRS 16484 P0001 Unit 3)

August 1963-June 1966

Board Minutes and Papers, Dental Board
(VPRS 16503 P0002 Unit 2)

Oct 1964-Oct 1966

Criminal Presentments and Final Orders, Melbourne
(VPRS 17020 P0003 Units 8-11)

Nov 1940-Dec 1941

Register of Pathology Tests, Mont Park Mental Hospital
(VPRS 17704 P0001 Unit 1)


Children’s Court Register, Preston
(VPRS 18149 P0001 Unit 2)

Nov 1913-March 1917


1 January Section 9 record openings

IMG_3758 - Copy

Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973, files of a personal or private nature are closed from between 75 to 99 years to prevent the violation of personal privacy.

2017 Section 9 record openings

As of the 1st of January 2017, another year of files will be opened to the public for the first time – making them available for researchers to order through our catalogue and view in our public Reading Rooms. 

A broad guide to time periods for closure under Section 9 is as follows:

  • Records primarily concerning adults may be closed for 75 years from the year in which the records were created.
  • Records concerning children as the primary subject of the record may be closed for 99 years from the year in which the records were created.
  • Records such as staff records where the individuals concerned may still be in the workforce may be closed for a lesser period such as 30, 40, or 50 years as appropriate.

The 2017 record openings include 1941 criminal trial briefs and capital case files, 1940-41 divorce case files, Kew and Sunbury Mental Hospital report books from 1939-41 and children’s court registers 1916-1917. Check our website after the 3rd of January for a complete list.

More information

View information on last year’s 2016 openings here.

View our Section 9 Fact Sheet here. 

Media enquiries

For media enquiries related to the Section 9 openings please contact:
Tara Oldfield, Communications Officer, 0418 698 364.

Women of Bendigo 1894

Black and white photo of Town Hall building

The Bendigo Town Hall

The Bendigo Regional Archives Centre (BRAC) holds local records from 1856 through to the 1970s including maps, plans and council correspondence. The collection also boasts a number of collections available online.

BRAC’s online petitions are fascinating items that shed light on what was important to the people of Bendigo between 1870 and 1899.

You can search the lists of 14,240 names and download one of the 284 petitions that have been digitised. See if an ancestor of yours was community-minded and signed a petition, and see their original signature.  

Part of the collection is this petition signed by 21 local men and women regarding using the Town Hall for a women’s franchise meeting.


Bendigo 2nd July 1894

To His Worship the Mayor of Bendigo Dear Sir,

We the undersigned ratepayers beg to request that you will be pleased to convene a public meeting to be held in the Town Hall Bendigo on Monday 23rd July for the purpose of considering the advisability of extending the franchise to women; and if you cannot convene the said meeting that you will permit the Town Hall to be used for that purpose on the date mentioned and will preside at the same.

We are yours respectfully


According to BRAC’s Archives Officer Dr Michele Matthews, this Petition is historically significant for two reasons:

  1. The fact this Petition was written in July 1894 and so predates (by five months) the South Australian Parliament’s granting of the suffrage to its female residents; South Australia was the first colony to do so. This local petition is therefore evidence of grassroots feeling in support of Women’s suffrage in Bendigo, then a regional Victorian city. The requested meeting did take place on 23 July, at the Bendigo Town Hall. The speakers were the Mayor, D.B.Lazarus MLA, Dr. Quick, Mr.A.S. Bailes, Rev. Rofe and Mrs. MacGillivray. 

  2. It is handwritten by local identity Dr. John Quick (1852-1932), the man who had the year before attended the important Corowa Conference, where his well-received motion led to the calling of the Federal Convention with delegates elected from each colony; together, they wrote the Australian Constitution. Quick went on to be one of the ten Victorian delegates, who attended the Convention’s sittings held in 1897-1898. This Bendigonian was knighted in 1901, specifically for his many contributions to our Commonwealth’s creation.

View the full petition and transcription online.

Please note: BRAC is closed from 4.30pm 22 December until 10am on 11 January 2017 for Christmas.

VAC Gallery submissions now open

banner-vac-galleryThe Victorian Archives Centre Gallery is seeking images from contemporary street photographers for a new exhibition: ‘Of Kin and Kind’. They will be displayed alongside prints of Victorian historical archival images.

The theme hopes to capture images of groups and communities of Victoria. We welcome creative and thoughtful interpretations of the theme; communities come in all shapes and sizes. See our Flickr sample album for inspiration from our collection.


  • Complete the Submission Form (This is a PDF form, open with Acrobat Reader) and email it to with your name and ‘VAC Gallery’ in the subject line. This form must be completed for your image to be considered.
  • Up to 3 images can be submitted.
  • The photo should pay homage to the theme (open to interpretation).
  • Submit only un-manipulated work that remains true to the original image. This honours the tradition of archival and street photography.
  • The works must be published (at low res) online (for instance on Flickr, Facebook or your own website) for selection and the url link included in the submission form.
  • The original image must be 300 dpi and able to be printed at a size to fit A1 (8MB+). You do not have to send us original images yet, for submissions simply provide the URL links. We will ask for your high-resolution files if you are selected to exhibit.
  • Submissions due by 5pm on the 30th of January 2017.
  • The exhibited submissions will receive their printed copy back at A1 size.

The VAC Gallery is in the lobby of the Victorian Archives Centre at 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne. Open Monday-Friday and the first and last Saturday each month. The exhibition will be open March 1st to June 30th 2017.

For more information email subject line ‘VAC Gallery’.

Season’s Greetings from PROV

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