Photo of Tara Oldfield

Author: Tara Oldfield

Senior Communications Advisor

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.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples