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Kew Historical Society Inc Kew, Victoria

Founded in 1958, two years after the formation of the National Trust of Victoria, the Kew Historical Society is one of the oldest historical societies in Melbourne. The Society was formed to assist in the preparations for Kew’s 100th Anniversary in 1960. Today, the Society continues to work with local government and other organisations within Kew to stimulate interest in our history and heritage. It publishes, in print and online, information and resources about Kew’s history, as well as organising events relevant to our heritage. The Society has been affiliated with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria since 1959, and works with other historical societies and groups across the City of Boroondara through the Boroondara Historical Societies Association.


Contact Information

Kew Court House 188 High Street Kew Victoria

Opening Hours

Kew Court House: Every Friday & Saturday from 11.00am to 1.00pm.

Entry Fee

Free entry


Kew Court House 188 High Street Kew Victoria

The Kew Historical Society was founded in 1958, and the collection predates and postdates that year. The collection has sometimes grown gradually, or significantly, the latter through key donations (eg The Rogers Collection), or due to events such as the amalgamation of the former City of Kew into the new City of Boroondara in 1994. Many ‘civic’ items were donated before, during or after the amalgamation.

These records are digitised by the Kew Historical Society on Victorian Collections for the purposes of education and preservation. If you believe that we have infringed your copyright please contact us and we will remove the material from the site.


When successfully applying in 2017 for funding for a Significance Assessment from a consortium of national cultural organisations led by the National Library of Australia the Society described its collections as:

Audio-visual recordings
A collection of unique addresses, lectures and oral history interviews of noted Australian men and women, many of whom achieved national prominence, including Sir Robert Menzies. Oral history interviews include one with Frances Dumaresq, the daughter of a pioneering Australian family (Tasmania, Victoria) and later an educator at PLC in Western Australia, and at schools in Victoria. The core part of the collection includes about 30 tapes, only a number of which have been digitised and or transcribed.

Archives Bound and Unbound
A major collection of bound and unbound documents lodged with the Society by private individuals and organisations operating within the municipal boundaries, as established from time to time. Significant sub-collections within these archives include those of the Kew Ladies Benevolent Society (1891-1969), the East Kew Women's Club (1945-73), the Lionesses of Kew (1979-88), and the Kew Elderly Citizens' Association (1951-present). Other sub-collections include the Irena Higgins collection (Kew Asylum, Kew Cottages), the Dorothy Rogers Collection (Victorian history), and the Jill O’Brien Collection (Politics). As a whole, these and other archives include publications of particular historical value, minute books, membership lists, minutes, records of activities, brochures, plans, etc.

Costumes and textiles
The most significant item in the textiles collection is a mid-19th Century colonial-era quilt, which was considered for inclusion by the curators of a recent quilt exhibition at
the NGV. The main component of the Fashion & Textiles collection, exceeding 500 items, is the costume collection. A sizeable component is the significant number of costumes that predate the First World War. The earliest of these date from the 1850s. A number of these 19th Century costumes entered the collection in the early 1960s. The best of these were exhibited in 2016, including at the Villa Alba Museum, and were supported by public lectures provided by past and present curators of Australian Fashion at the NGV.

Information files
More than 480 hanging files containing information in the form of reports, short histories of families and buildings, personal accounts, etc. relating to people, places and events. The largest single sub-collection areas include conservation studies, including those used to support the community campaign to preserve the nationally significant Kew Court House, reports and documents relating to the Kew Cottages and Kew Lunatic Asylum, and those that outline the creation and maintenance of the Villa Alba Museum.

Approximately 350 works covering arrange of historic themes. Within this part of the collection unique or rare books, including two copies of ‘In Memoriam’ by Sir John Longstaff and Dr. John Springthorpe, celebrating the life of Annie Springthorpe (1867-97). These important copies are believed to be two of the four in public collections. The collection also includes a folio of images of Kew in the early 1890s, that includes photographs taken by the Victorian photographer J.F.C. Farquhar. The book is in need of urgent restoration and has been recently assessed by the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. The Book Collection also incorporates the professional library of the historian Dorothy Rogers.

Approximately 300 maps catalogued, including a highly significant and unique collection of Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) maps and plans dating from the 1890s to the 1920s. Thirty- five of the detail plans in the collection were the subject of a Victorian Local History Grant, provided though the Public Record Office Victoria, which enabled the digitising, reprinting, exhibiting and conserving of the plans. These plans are original contractors’ maps, which are hand-coloured and annotated with comments about land use and ownership. A number of these are not available through the State Library of Victoria. In addition to these MMBW plans, the society has almost 100 19th and 20th century subdivision plans, which are regularly accessed and used by researchers to investigate ‘Building Settlements Towns and Cities’.

Mounted works
Almost 200 original artworks and framed photographs, prints, etc. relating to significant people, places and events. One of these is the large, original framed iconic photograph of the ‘Unveiling of the Kew War Memorial, 1925’. Two recently acquired portraits of are of John Halfey and Annie Halfey. The distinctive portraits were painted in the 1880s and have recently been assessed for restoration by the Grimwade Centre. The majority of the mounted works are a collection of eighty-three framed photographs of mayors of the former City of Kew dating from 1861. This series of photographs includes examples taken by photographers such as Josiah Earl Barnes. A number of these mayors made significant wider contributions to the Australian community (eg William Warren Kerr, Sir Stanley Argyle, Herbert James Henty, and Marie Dalley). In a number of cases these are the only known portraits of these men and women.


Over 2,500 objects including domestic and commercial equipment etc.

Over 3,000 photographs of people, places and events dating from the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, over 700 of which are available through Trove. While most of the photographs are of people, places and events, others have a wider significance. The Kew Historical Society was the largest contributor of historic photographs to ‘Remembering Melbourne’ (2016), produced by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Cameron Auty 26 April 2016 9:48 AM

Amazing hat collection, these are a great addition to the site - Site admin.

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1 items

Sound Recording - City of Kew 1860-1960: Centenary Addresses / by The Right Hon RG Menzies & Cr WHS Dickinson, 1960

Kew Historical Society Inc, Kew

City of Kew Centenary 1860-1960 Speeches by The Hon RG Menzies, MHR for Kew, and Cr WHS Dickinson, Mayor of Kew. Recorded on 13th December 1960 at the Kew City Hall 34 minutes 29 seconds From the archives of the Kew Historical Society Inc Copyright Kew Historical Society Inc Timings 00.14-17.00 The Right Hon RG Menzies MHR 17.07-32.33 Cr. WHS Dickinson 32.38-33.10 The Right Hon RG Menzies MHR 33.30-33.50 Cr. WHS Dickinson 33.51-34.25 Song - 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'

Historical information

The Centenary commemoration of the City of Kew was held in the new Kew City Hall, and attended by invited guests, including the Australian Prime Minister, The Right Hon. RG Menzies, MHR for Kew; Arthur Rylah; and the Mayor, Cr WHS Dickinson.


This reel-to-reel tape, now digitised, is both rare (ie unique) and historically significant. While the recording clearly has local significance, it is also of national and international significance due to the content of the Prime Minister's address. The focus of his speech is the nature of Australian democracy and its strengths, deriving from universal suffrage and the acceptance of democratic values by the Australian population, gained through historic participation in democracy at local, state and federal levels. RG Menzies mounts a strong case for each level of government having value in the development of Australian democracy. He also describes the emerging democracies of Africa in the period following decolonisation, and suggests that the success of these countries is dependent on democratic institutions not being imposed from above by colonial powers.

Inscriptions & Markings

Label on original box