Last updated:

This display at the Old Treasury Building, presented in partnership with Public Record Office Victoria, traces the foundations of Melbourne with original records from our archives. 

From fledgling village to bustling metropolis within a generation, this is the story of the astonishing growth of Melbourne. Dramatic panoramic pictures of the city from the 1840s to 1900 trace the extraordinary emergence of a city. When a visiting English journalist coined the phrase ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ locals were delighted. To outsiders, Melbourne seemed like a modern wonder. With its wide boulevards of gracious buildings, its cable trams, coffee palaces and dance halls, Melbourne was the premier city in Australia. But of course there was a downside as well. The creation of Melbourne rested on the dispossession and systematic exclusion of the local Aboriginal people. And the environment suffered too. Despite its glittering outward appearances, Melbourne was a dangerous city. The drains stank, the water was polluted and typhoid fever was rife. Until a deep sewerage system was finally completed in 1898, ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ was also popularly known as ‘Marvellous Smellbourne’. But for all that, Melbourne was the wonder of the age. This new exhibition at the Old Treasury Building shows us why. 



Old Treasury Building, Spring Street, Melbourne



Image Gallery

Black and white image of a police officer standing outside flinders street station
On display: Constable Scanlon in front of Flinders Street Station c1900, image from the Public Record Office Victoria collection.


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