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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

Celebrating 150 Years of Sebastopol, Victoria, 1864 to 2014

  • PROV, VPRS 2545/P1 Council Minutes, Unit 1.

Sebastopol was a long, thin, little township, strung out along the gold mines between Buninyong in the south and Ballarat, the bustling town just over Rubicon Street, in the north.  Shops and houses shared the township with mines and mullock heaps.

On 1 October 1864, the Borough of Sebastopol separated from Buninyong Shire. The first Borough council meetings were held in November that year. To mark this milestone, 150 years since its inception, we look back at the history of the town. 

Step back in time in Sebastopol

In the twentieth century the borough provided a pool, a war memorial, an infant welfare centre and a kindergarten for its residents. Albert Street was a major shopping centre, with a Mechanics Institute and Free Library, but residents could also rattle into Ballarat on the tram for the theatre, botanical gardens and the art gallery.

Moving house

With a only a small number of rate-payers the borough was often strapped for cash. In 1873, with rate revenue disappearing in front of his eyes, the Mayor instructed the Town Clerk to go out and count the miners’ cottages being lifted off their suburban blocks and carted away to towns with jobs. Many homes in Sebastopol were built on blocks for which they paid a yearly fee to the Mines Department. People often carted their houses away with them when they moved to another town. See the FAQ Mining Records on the PROV WIKI. 

Sebastopol records

Interesting records giving glimpses of everyday life in Sebastopol over the last two centuries include a register from the local Sebastopol court. Many of Sebastopol’s residents came from mining districts in Cornwall and Wales with Welsh names common among the names of rate-payers, miners, and Borough councillors.  

Finding records at Ballarat Archives Centre

The Ballarat Archives Centre holds a fascinating collection of Sebastopol records. 

Records which reveal something of life in Sebastopol include a list of new books for the library in 1892 and a local court register of collectors and carriers. A complete list of Sebastopol records held at the Ballarat Archives Centre can be found under Borough of Sebastopol and Sebastopol Courts in the Public Record Office Victoria online catalogue.

 Written by Elizabeth Denny, Access Services Officer Ballarat.


Update on VERS refresh

The work on renewing the VERS standard continues and is expected to be completed around February 2015.

Work is currently underway to produce software tools to construct, analyse, and view the new style VEOs. We are producing these tools for two reasons. The first, long term, reason is so that agencies and vendors can easily adopt and use the new standard. A second, short term, reason is to test the draft revised VERS standard. This will allow us to ensure that can be efficiently and easily implemented, and to fine tune the requirements and XML specifications. The tools are being written in Java 1.7 and will be available within the Victorian government.

Currently the construction tool (VEOCreate) has been written and tested. The analysis tool (VEOAnalyse) has been largely written and testing is underway (this not only tests the analysis tool, but the VEOCreate tool as well). A number of minor tweaks to the XML schemas in the renewed standard have been made as a result of this work.

The text of the renewed VERS standard is available on the PROV website at

Archival Snapshot: Victorian Railways’ Sir Harold Clapp

A black and white portrait of Sir Harold Clapp

Portrait of Sir Harold Clapp

Sir Harold Winthrop Clapp (7 May 1875 – 21 October 1952) was a transport administrator with the Victorian Railways who over the course of thirty years revolutionised railways as we know it.

Clapp introduced faster services and more powerful locomotives, supported the farming sector and presented a report on standardising rail gauges (track width) which then led to a uniform rail gauge across capital cities. 

Clapp was renowned for his unprecedented attention to customer service and a paternal management style. He had a fantastic memory and learned the names and faces of thousands of railway employees. His concern for worker conditions was genuine and he was personally responsible for improvements within the industry such as better sanitation facilities and the provision of good cafeterias.

Clapp became Chairman of Commissioners of Victorian Railways in 1920 and remained Chairman until his retirement in 1951. 

Sir Harold Clapp’s Greatest Achievements

  • Improved timetables
  • Larger, modern and more powerful locomotives
  • The introduction of electric lighting on locomotives and the fitting of auto-couplers (the mechanism for connecting rolling stock)
  • Improved services to regional areas
  • Under his chair, Victorian Railways expanded operations into everything from motor coach services, a ski chalet, bakeries and crèches.
  • He gave support and assistance to the farming sector by introducing two special trains, the Better Farming Train and the Reso Train (Victorian National Resources Development) which boosted rural rail traffic and helped to meet customer demands for agricultural products.
  • He examined and implemented the Upgrade of the clunky (Melbourne to Sydney express) service into the all-metal, all-air-conditioned, non-stop, high-speed express.of Progress.

Harold W Clapp was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1941 in recognition of service to public service.

Sir Harold resigned from the Victorian Railways in September 1951 due to declining health, but continued to act as a consultant to the Department of Shipping and Transport. On 14 July 1952 Harold was honoured by having the new revolutionary B Class Diesel electric Locomotive named after him, the B60 – Harold W Clapp.

Harold passed away 21 October 1952. He left behind a wife, and three children. He was tributed far and wide, including by then Prime Minister Robert Menzies. He was praised as a remarkable man and his list of accomplishments are to this day considered momentous and ground-breaking.

Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class Diesel Electric Locomotive – B 60 the Harold W Clapp

This is a black and white photo of the B class Diesel overland

Locomotive B Class Sketch circa 1952 (VPRS 12851/P1 unit 1 Diagrams of Rolling Stock, Locomotives, Rail Motors, Cars, Vans, Wagons)

The B class were diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering, Granville for the Victorian Railways in 1952-53. They were the first mainline diesel locomotives built in Victoria and were designed similarly to the Electro-Motive F-unit which has the characteristic bulldog nose.

The first B Class locomotive (number B60) was launched in July 1952 and was named the Harold W Clapp.

A very popular and important locomotive for the next few decades, the 26 B Class locomotives operated on broad gauge lines throughout Victoria, working with many important passenger trains, as well as fast freights.

In the 1980s it was decided to try to rebuild the now aging B Class Loco’s into A class locos.

In 1985 after 11 Loco’s had been rebuilt the project was abandoned due to funding issues and rising costs. This combined with the inception of new higher powered locomotives rendered many of the B class superfluous and a few were scrapped. Others were purchased by private vendors, some were stored and as of 2014 only three of the original B Class Diesel electric Locomotives are still in service.

In 1983 the B 60 – Harold W Clapp was converted to an A Class Locomotive – A 60 Sir Harold Clapp and continued as a passenger loco for many years. It is currently in storage.

Lee Hooper, Access Services Officer

Public Records Sourced

PTC Collection photographs: VPRS 12800 Photographic Collection: Railway Negatives: Alpha-numeric Systems and VPRS 12903 Photographic Negatives: Railways: Box Systems, digital images available via PROV’s online catalogue

Creating Agency: Victorian Railways (also Victorian Railways Commissions 1883-1973, Victorian Railways Board): VA 2876 1883 – 1983.

Agency currently responsible: Public Transport Victoria: VA 4968 2014 – Cont, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure: VA 5003 2014 – Cont.

  1. Portrait of Sir Harold W Clapp VPRS 12800/P1 Item H1255

  2. Sir Harold W Clapp on tour VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2551

  3. B 60 Harold W Clapp Locomotive Model on display at the Victorian Railways Centenary 1954 VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2664

  4. B class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 named Harold Clapp at North Melbourne VPRS 12800/P1, item H 5072

  5. Inauguration of the Spirit of Progress at Spencer Street Station. Victorian Premier AA Dunstan speaking with Harold Clapp at left – 7 November 1937 VPRS 12800 P4 RS/0456

  6. Model of B Class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 Harold W Clapp, Front view VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box499-07

  7. B class Diesel No.60(Harold Clapp) on overland train VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box665-06

Special thanks to Phil Dunn for the loan of the Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class – B 60 Harold W Clapp – Locomotive model.

The Ministerial Forum for the Cemetery Sector


As an initiative of the Hon David Davis, Minister for Health, The Ministerial Forum for the Cemetery Sector was held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday 24 October, 2014.

The theme of the Ministerial Forum was Heritage and Historical Linkages to Cemeteries. The main event of the day was a book launch to promote In Memoriam : A Guide to the History and Heritage of Victoria’s Cemeteries by Garrie Hutchinson. Download a copy of the publication here.

Public Record Office Victoria was invited to speak at the Ministerial Forum along with Dr Celestina Sagazio, Historian and Manager of Cultural Heritage at Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust and John Hawker, Horticulturist, Heritage Victoria.

Julie McCormack, Manager of Appraisal and Documentation at Public Records Office Victoria, presented a talk at the forum on How Records Become Archives.  Julie’s presentation covered the Public Records Act 1973 and discussed cemetery records required as State Archives. Julie further discussed the forthcoming Retention and Disposal Authority for Cemetery Records, how to transfer records and records relating to cemeteries already held by Public Record Office Victoria.

Indeed, Public Record Office Victoria holds a selection of records about cemeteries, as well as records created by cemetery trusts. Amongst our substantial collection at Public Record Office Victoria are records from the Greta, Oakleigh, Old Melbourne, Melbourne General, Walhalla, and Fawkner cemeteries.
Public Record Office Victoria also holds records from a range of government agencies which have had a role in the regulation of cemeteries in the 19th and 20th centuries. This includes the Public Works Department, the Department of Crown Lands and Survey, the Chief Secretary’s Department and successive health departments and local councils.

If you would like more information or have any questions please email us at

Image: Presenters at the Ministerial Forum

PROV volunteers win Melbourne Award!

  • PROV staff Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade accept their 2014 Melbourne Award for the Public Record Office Victoria volunteering program

Our Public Record Office Victoria volunteers are the proud recipients of the 2014 Melbourne Award for Contribution to Community by a Corporation. The City of Melbourne’s ‘Melbourne Awards’ were held on Saturday 15 November. Volunteer Program Coordinators Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade attended the gala event and were thrilled to accept the award on behalf of more than 150 volunteers. 

Jack told the audience that PROV volunteers cover a broad demographic and come from a wide range of backgrounds.

“But one thing they all have in common – and in common with Leigh and myself – is their passion for the State’s archives and for the stories contained in the records.

“Their work is making a permanent contribution to current and future researchers and enhancing Melbourne’s reputation as a centre for research. For recognising their work with this award, we’re both very grateful to the City of Melbourne and the sponsors of this awards ceremony tonight.”

See a full list of award winners here. 

Here is a link to the PROV volunteer projects currently underway.

PROV volunteers nominated for Melbourne Award

This is a photo of some of our volunteers. A group of about 60 got together for a photo at the Archives Centre.

Some of our outstanding volunteers

Now in its 12th year, the Melbourne Awards were introduced by the City of Melbourne to recognise outstanding achievements of organisations and individuals who are committed to making Melbourne a unique place to live, visit and do business.

The Public Record Office’s volunteer program is a finalist for the prestigious ‘Contribution to Community Award’.

Our team of more than 120 volunteers undertake work on under-utilised or difficult-to-use areas of our archival collection.

 The volunteer program has run for over twenty years, with volunteers providing an incredible 21,000 hours annually. Their work enables researchers to easily discover previously hidden links to people, places and decisions that have shaped Melbourne’s history.

The most recent projects our volunteers have worked on include digitising and indexing records related to:
• Over 30,000 prisoners in Melbourne area jails
• Melbourne court cases
• Wards of the state
• Immigrants
• Indigenous Australians
• Establishment of Government in Melbourne (from policing to schooling systems)
• Melbourne’s built environment (maps and plans)

We are proud of our volunteers for their hard work, dedication and passion, and their amazing help undertaking this important work.

Managers of the volunteer program, Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade, will be attending the Melbourne Awards to see if we win on Saturday 15 November at Melbourne Town Hall.

See the full list of finalists here.

If you would like to volunteer for the Public Record Office of Victoria keep an eye on our training and orientation schedule.

Public Records Amendment Bill 2014 – Current Status

This is an image of a decorative parliament seal.Public Record Office Victoria would like to advise agencies that the Public Records Amendment Bill 2014 lapsed when Parliament was prorogued. 

As a result, the Public Records Act 1973 remains unchanged (view the current act here). 

The Bill proposed a number of changes to the Public Records Act 1973. These changes included formalisation of a new process for the annual release of Cabinet records. Agencies have been required to organise cabinet records on an annual basis since 2010.

Other proposed changes included a shortening of timeframes for mandatory transfer of public records from agencies to Public Record Office Victoria and an increase in the maximum penalty for destroying or interfering with a public record.

If you have any questions about the lapsed Bill, please contact Alan Kong Manager Standards and Policy ph: (03) 9348 5720 email:

Picture: Parliament of Victoria


Archival Snapshot: Exhibition Photos Display Fashions of 1888

Sepia photo of M.A. Gerson a staff member of the 1888 International Exhibition, Melbourne.

M.A. Gerson and S.L Gerson, 1888 International Exhibition, Melbourne. VPRS840P1 Unit 1

The Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition of 1888 was a pinnacle moment in Melbourne’s development as a City. It marked the city’s entrance onto the global stage with much to offer international traders looking for new markets to exploit. The exhibition took place at the Exhibition Building, one of Melbourne’s most photographed and ornately designed buildings still located within the Carlton Gardens.

Exhibitions of late 19th Century

From its opening on the 1st of August 1888, until its closing on the 31st of January 1889, over two million people visited the exhibition; more than twice the number of people living in Melbourne at the time.

International Exhibitions of the late 19th century were large scale trade fairs where nations could display their industrial achievements to an international audience. In addition to providing opportunities to buy and trade, they also provided entertainment. Attractions such Fine Art exhibits, daily concerts and demonstrations of new industrial processes drew in local crowds.

Staff Photo Albums

Such a large scale event required significant numbers of staff and at some point in the planning process that lead up to the Centennial International Exhibition, it was decided that a photographic record would be kept of all non-paying entrants to the exhibition. These photographs were kept in albums. Of those that have survived, four are held by the Public Record Office of Victoria (a further two albums are held by the State Library of Victoria).

The albums could also serve as a photographic record of other occupations which existed in Melbourne at the time. In addition to categories for visiting international exhibitors and staff, there are sections devoted to local categories such as Fine Arts, Country and Metropolitan Press and even members of a Fire Brigade employed for the duration of the event.  The photos also help paint a picture of the varying fashion and hair trends enjoyed by Melbourne’s working class.

Author: Georgia Harris, Access Services Officer

Accessing These Records

PROV has an online index of the names of staff.  Click on this link here. Listings in the album are via surname or situation, so it is best to limit your search to these terms. The photographs can be viewed by ordering the album to view at the Reading Room in North Melbourne.

Records: VPRS 840/P0 Units 1,2,3,4  Security Identity Photos of Individuals Associated with the 1888 International Exhibition Melbourne

Creating Agency: Trustees, Exhibition Building: VA 1070, 1881 – 1996

Agency currently responsible: Museum Victoria Council: VA 3152, 1996-continued


Regional Rail Link preserves Footscray railway’s station heritage

A photo of the new signage displayed at the station. The signage begins with a panel entitled 'The William Cooper Footbridge'Works to conserve and restore historic buildings at Footscray railway station, as part of the Regional Rail Link project, are now complete.

“Restoration of the station’s heritage-listed buildings has been undertaken in a way that ensures the significant architectural features of each building remain true to the period during which they were originally constructed,” Regional Rail Link CEO Allen Garner said.

New interpretive signage, which includes a series of photographs sourced from the Public Records Office Victoria, has been installed to share the story of the station’s important heritage status, with some of the current buildings dating back to the early 1900s.

The new signage also celebrates William Cooper (1860–1941), after whom the station footbridge is named. Mr Cooper was a former Footscray resident and a leading campaigner for the rights of Aboriginal and Jewish people during the 1930s.

Restoration works on the station buildings included replacing the roof with new Welsh slate, repairing gutters, windows and brickwork, and repainting to approved colour schemes. Restoration and repair of the heritage buildings was guided by a Conservation Management Plan commissioned by the project. The station buildings at Footscray are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) as a place of State significance. 

Free heritage tours

Project staff will be hosting tours of the heritage buildings as part of the Footscray Celebrates Festival that will be held on Saturday 15 November.

From 11am until 1.30 book into free 15 minute tours on McNab Avenue (alongside Footscray Station) exploring the station’s new design as well as efforts around heritage restoration.

Original photographs

Flick through photos used within the new interpretive signage on our Facebook page.

Search Historic Rail Photographs

If you’d like to see old photographs of your local train station, try searching the Public Transportation Corporation photographic index here’s a link.



Celebrating the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary

cL8tar1414387348To celebrate the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary we dug through our archives and came up with some gems from the last 30+ years.

From original seating and lighting plans, articles announcing the opening and clippings from the first set of performances, there’s a treasure trove of history to be found – including an article on one of the very first performances after construction.

The performance was in 1982 when the construction workers were treated to a performance alongside their family, friends and the Arts Minister of the time, Mr Matthews. After working so tirelessly on the project, this allowed the workers a chance to show off their efforts and experience the venue ahead of the general public. According to our records, the performance was capped off with refreshments served outside under the Riverside Terrace.

Gems from the collection

You can read the original newspaper article on this performance alongside some of our other Arts Centre records here.

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