Author: Charlie Farrugia
Senior Collections Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the opening of the Victorian Archives Centre (VAC) with the official opening held in November 2000.
Visitors were using the building slightly earlier than this official date. On 10 October 2000, our first visitors arrived, but did not consult records in what is now the Harry Nunn Reading Room on Level 3. Instead they were received in a temporary reading room on Level 1 that today is part of our main volunteer activity room. This was necessary because the area designated as the reading room was commandeered by the National Gallery of Victoria as a temporary administrative headquarters whilst their St. Kilda Road complex was refurbished. The temporary reading room operated until the opening of the Harry Nunn Reading Room after Easter 2004.
The temporary reading room operated by appointment only and just for visitors who needed to look at certain types of records, such as volumes and plans, we couldn’t make available for inspection at our reading room in Casselden Place in the CBD. The Casselden Place reading room was known as the Melbourne Archives Centre (MAC) and is where our trail blazing co-tenant relationship with the Victorian Branch of the National Archives of Australia began early in 1997. The MAC became our main reading room when the one at our former building at Cherry Lane Laverton North officially closed around the end of March 2000. The PROV collection of around 80 kilometres of records was relocated from Laverton to the VAC between July and October 2000 and the temporary reading room was subsequently opened.
Among the Laverton staff who relocated to the VAC along with the collection was Sandra Hopper who supervised the visitors to the temporary reading room. Today she manages the staff who deal with visitors to the Harry Nunn Reading Room and online queries.
Since that rather modest under the radar opening to the public, PROV has consolidated its presence and contributed to the fabric of life in North Melbourne in a number of ways. These range from the way our initial building design and subsequent changes is carefully integrated into the historic streetscape of Shiel Street, the use of our meeting facilities by local groups, the Council’s use of water from our rain tanks on trees and plants in the area and our partnering with local history groups on initiatives that highlight the history of North Melbourne.
But the events of 2000 don’t truly mark the start of PROV’s relationship with North Melbourne. The VAC site is the birthplace of what is likely to be a significant portion of the PROV collection. Stationary items such as sheets of letterhead paper for official documents, volumes such as court, pupil and prison registers and a variety of forms were printed at the former Victorian Government Printing Office printing works that was previously located on our site. Those items were dispatched to locations through the state where these became public records before ultimately returning home as part of the PROV collection.
The next major anniversary for PROV will be our 50th Anniversary in April 2023. By then the VAC and its reading rooms will have existed as the main building housing the PROV collection for the longest period of our history cementing its place to all of us who work here as our work “home”.
So Happy Birthday VAC!
Read more about the official opening of the Victorian Archives Centre here.