State Library Victoria
Early photographs: Indigenous Victorians
This selection of early photographs were taken by Antoine Fauchery and Richard Daintree between late 1857 and early 1859 for inclusion in their photographic series Sun Pictures of Victoria. The album consists of fifty albumen silver prints, twelve of which are photographs of Indigenous Victorians and were the first photographic series of Australian scenes presented for sale to the public.
Featuring Victorian scenes such as landscapes and gold mining activities, the series included 12 images of various Indigenous Victorians. Taking a very 19th Century approach to their subjects, the portraits show people in both traditional and western wear, documenting the effects of colonisation.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of this website are warned that this story contains images of deceased persons and places that could cause sorrow.
Talking Shop: Ballarat in Business & City Life at Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute
Between January and April 2019, the Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute hosted the exhibition Talking Shop, exploring a world of Peters ice cream cones, milk bars, vintage advertising, historic photographs and ephemera.
This nostalgia was complemented by contemporary photographs and creative responses exploring Ballarat’s shops and businesses. Community events throughout the exhibition invited the people of Ballarat to contribute their images and memories to the BMI collection, and are shared here in this story.
This exhibition was curated by Amy Tsilemanis at the BMI who worked with artists Pauline O'Shannessy-Dowling and Margie Balazic, collector John Kerr and Ballarat businesses, council, and schools to create a 'generative' exhibition where material and collaborations could grow.
Wanting to know more about Ballarat’s booming business history? Take a digital tour of the exhibition here: https://invictoria.com.au/talking-shop-exhibition
Wind & Sky Productions
Many Roads: Stories of the Chinese on the goldfields
In the 1850s tens of thousands of Chinese people flocked to Victoria, joining people from nations around the world who came here chasing the lure of gold.
Fleeing violence, famine and poverty in their homeland Chinese goldseekers sought fortune for their families in the place they called ‘New Gold Mountain’. Chinese gold miners were discriminated against and often shunned by Europeans. Despite this they carved out lives in this strange new land.
The Chinese took many roads to the goldfields. They left markers, gardens, wells and place names, some which still remain in the landscape today. After a punitive tax was laid on ships to Victoria carrying Chinese passengers, ship captains dropped their passengers off in far away ports, leaving Chinese voyagers to walk the long way hundreds of kilometres overland to the goldfields. After 1857 the sea port of Robe in South Australia became the most popular landing point. It’s estimated 17,000 Chinese, mostly men, predominantly from Southern China, walked to Victoria from Robe following over 400kms of tracks.
At the peak migration point of the late 1850s the Chinese made up one in five of the male population in fabled gold mining towns of Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Beechworth and Ararat. It was not just miners who took the perilous journey. Doctors, gardeners, artisans and business people voyaged here and contributed to Victoria’s economy, health and cultural life. As the nineteenth century wore on and successful miners and entrepreneurs returned home, the Chinese Victorian population dwindled. However some chose to settle here and Chinese culture, family life, ceremony and work ethic became a distinctive feature of many regional Victorian towns well into the twentieth century.
By the later twentieth century many of the Chinese relics, landscapes and legacy of the goldrush era were hidden or forgotten. Today we are beginning to unearth and celebrate the extent of the Chinese influence in the making of Victoria, which reaches farther back than many have realised.
Symbols of Survival
The internment of civilian and military populations was widespread during the twentieth century.
The Australian experience of imprisonment is complex: Captured Australian soldiers faced years in Asian and European camps, often returning home traumatised or suffering physically. Australia also interned enemy soldiers and civilian residents with ties to enemy nations.
The physical objects created by internees and by the societies that imprisoned them can tell stories not found in archives. Prisoners expressed themselves through art, doctors built tools and internees made furniture to fill sparse barracks. Similarly, authorities used the internee experience to tell stories, and the image of the prisoner could be used to communicate power or compassion depending on the audience.
These objects are comparatively rare in military collections, as internees faced obstacles when producing physical objects. Lack of access to materials, hostile guards and strict rules, low morale and poor health all contributed to their scarcity.
Victorian Collections provides a window into the story of internment. This story uses objects drawn from Victoria’s collecting organisations to explore the internee and prisoner experience.
Lighting fades away when a lamp is blown out, or when a switch is clicked off, but the history of lighting has left traces in Victorian cultural collections.
This story looks at items and images relating to the history of lighting in Victoria and considers the various lightscapes created by different types of lighting. This story is inspired by the book Black Kettle and Full Moon by Geoffrey Blainey.
After thousands of years of Aboriginal firelight, European households spent their evenings in dim smoky rooms huddled around a spluttering pool of light. Bright lighting was a luxury. As new energy sources and lighting technology became available nights became brighter, extending the day and changing the night time.
School Days: Education in Victoria
The exhibition, School Days, developed by Public Record Office Victoria and launched at Old Treasury Building in March 2015, is a history of more than 150 years of schooling in Victoria.
It is a history of the 1872 Education Act - the most significant education reform in Victoria, and a world first! It is a history of early schooling, migrant schooling, Aboriginal schools, women in education, rural education and, of course, education during war time (1914-1918).
This online exhibition is based on the physical exhibition School Days originally displayed at Old Treasury Building, 20 Spring Street, Melbourne, www.oldtreasurybuilding.org.au and curated by Kate Luciano in collaboration with Public Record Office Victoria.
Stories of Support
The 2016 Museums Australia (Victoria) Conference held at Phillip Island in October, was the inspiration for this story. A drive around the Island on arrival unearthed a surprise in Newhaven - the former Boys Home standing silent and abandoned, looming over the ocean.
Care homes were once an essential part of Victorian life. The gold rush and population increase in Victoria created a need for charitable organisations to provide care to those who could not care for themselves, most notably children. Providers of care have also included societies for people with special needs including the 'Deaf and Dumb', and the asylums and hospitals of Victoria. This continued until the late 20th century when reform was prompted by revelations of abuse in the institutional system. The care model has since shifted towards kinship and foster services.
Victoria’s former institutions of care are an important part of our history. Whilst many of the buildings—often architecturally brilliant— no longer exist, they are remembered through the photographs and artefacts held by collecting organisations across the state and catalogued here on Victorian Collections.
Jane Routley and Elizabeth Downes
Degraves Street Subway & Campbell Arcade: The underground artspace
When you first come down the stairs, the Degraves Street Subway seems a bit daunting.
The long, pale pink tiled corridor with its blocked-off doorways and blotched asphalt, seems the perfect place for a mugging. A mysterious blind alley, which used to be an opening into the Mutual Store (and the earliest bowling alley in the CBD), leads off to your right. But stick with this corridor. It’s safe and is actually the route into the Campbell Arcade - a little slice of indie fringe artist-land which I think is a fine place to be.
Stories of Women on the Land
From the grinding stones of Australia’s first farmers, Wagga quilts, butter pats and recipe books to family photographs, garden tools and agricultural equipment – women’s farm work is frequently found in museums. The contribution of women to Australian agriculture has a rich and very deep history. Yet these stories have been unacknowledged and continue to be undervalued.
The nature of women’s farm work is often rendered invisible because much of it is intangible and ephemeral, is characterised by relationships and oral tradition, and dismissed as just ‘domestic’ work when in fact this work is what has often sustained families, farms and communities. The layers of invisibility are even deeper for migrant and Indigenous women.
There has also been a long history of official barriers to recognising women’s work on the land. Farm women were deliberately omitted from the 1891 Victorian Census. Women were excluded from agriculture courses up into the early 1970s. It wasn’t until 1994 that women were legally recognised as farmers, prior to this they were defined as ‘non-productive "sleeping" partners’. And, It is only in recent years that scholars have finally acknowledged the 40-50,000 years of Indigenous knowledge and practice in complex systems of agriculture and aquaculture.
Victorian museums are a treasure trove of untold stories about the extraordinary lives of farm women and how they have shaped our land and rural communities.
Victorians & Native Birds: An evolving relationship
The people of Victoria have had a constantly changing relationship with their native birdlife.
Ever-present and iconic, we’ve put Australian birds on official state heraldry and on tomato sauce bottles and biscuit packets. There has always been an immense fondness and respect for our unique birds. However, attitudes towards wildlife generally and birds specifically have undergone seismic paradigm shifts over the last few hundred years.
Looking at objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections, we can map this change and trace the ways that Victorians have interacted with birds, from Indigenous spirituality to citizen science programs.
Diplomat, artist, story-teller and leader, Wurundjeri (Woiwurung) man William Barak worked all his life to protect the rights and culture of his people, and to bridge the gap between settlers and the land’s original custodians.
Barak was educated at the Yarra Mission School in Narrm (Melbourne), and was a tracker in the Native Police as his father had been, before becoming ngurungaeta (clan leader). Energetic, charismatic and mild mannered, he spent much of his life at Coranderrk Reserve - a self-sufficient Aboriginal farming community in Healesville.
Barak campaigned to protect Coranderrk, worked to improve cross-cultural understanding and created many unique artworks and artifacts, leaving a rich cultural legacy for future generations.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images and voices of deceased persons, and images of places that could cause sorrow.
Further information on William Barak can be found at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site.
The Main Line Starter Clock: Keeper of public time
An authoritative presence on Platform One at Spencer Street Station for almost one hundred years, the Main Line Starter Clock stood over the people of Victoria from its installation in 1871 until 1960, when the station was re-developed and the clock was gifted by Victorian Railways to the Melbourne Museum.
This majestic artifact is now cleverly housed in a model ‘Museum Station’ in the new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery.
Built by watchmaker Thomas Gaunt at his premises in Bourke Street’s Royal Arcade in consultation with Government Astronomer Robert Ellery, the clock weighs some 150kg and stands – as you can gauge from this image of Conservator Sarah Babister as she repaired paint loss and removed decades of accumulated grime from the face – an imposing 1820mm high by 1190mm wide.
Time Flies in Museum Collections: Ornithology in Victoria
Natural science collections are vast treasure troves of biological data which inform current research and conservation.
Alongside bird skins, nests, eggs and DNA samples sits a magnificent collection of rare books, illustrations and images which charts the history of amateur and professional ornithology in Victoria.
Whilst the big names such as John Gould (1804–1881), are represented, the very local, independent bird observers such as John Cotton (1801-1849) and Archibald James Campbell (1853–1929) made some of the most enduring contributions.
The collections also document the bird observers themselves; their work in the field, building collections, their efforts to publish and the growth of their ornithological networks. Captured within records are changes in ornithological methods, particularly the way data is captured and published.
However the data itself remains as relevant today as it did when first recorded, 160 years of collecting gives us a long-term picture of birdlife in Victoria through space and time.
The McIntyre Family
The First World War was an event that involved the whole world.
Thousands of Australian troops were sent into battle in support of Britain and France. Among them were two brothers, John and Jim McIntyre. John McIntyre's experiences are particularly well documented because he brought back many objects from all the places he visited. He also sent many postcards home to his family during the war.
John Lachlan McIntyre was born at Beeac, Victoria in December 1890. He enlisted in the 1st AIF in July 1915. John fought on the Western Front, taking part in the battles of Fromelles and the 2nd Battle of the Somme. He was severely wounded at Fromelles and spent 12 months in hospital in England before returning to the front.
Making & Using Transport on the Goldfields
During the nineteenth century, horse-drawn vehicles were an essential part of life in rural Victoria.
In Ballarat, local coachbuilding firms assisted with the town’s growth in more ways than providing passage to the diggings. Horse-drawn vehicles were vital for the delivery of goods, responding to emergencies and often symbolised one’s social standing.
The Gold Rush ushered in a period of incredible growth for colonial Victoria. Ballarat’s escalating population and burgeoning industries highlighted the need for horse-drawn transport – not only for getting to the diggings, but also for delivering goods and building material, responding to emergencies and performing significant social rituals.
In the early nineteenth century, the goldfields were dominated by vehicles either imported from England or English-style vehicles built locally. Coaches, carriages and carts were typically constructed part-by-part, one at a time. As a result, each vehicle was highly unique.
By the mid-1850s, the American coachbuilding tradition had arrived on the goldfields. The American method, which had been developing since the 1840s, relied on mass-produced, ready-made components. In comparison to English designs, American coaches were known to be more reliable for goldfields travel; they were primed for long-distance journeys on rough terrain and were less likely to tip over.
As the nineteenth century progressed, a plethora of English, American and European vehicles populated Ballarat – both locally made and imported. The abundance of coaches, carriages and carts – and their value to the Ballarat community – can be seen in photographs and objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections.
State Library Victoria / Public Records Office Victoria
Ned Kelly, the most famous of our 'Wild Colonial Boys', was born in 1855.
He was raised in harsh poverty in Northern Victoria, and became an expert bushman; by his teens he had developed a reputation as a bushranger. Kelly and his 'gang' were proclaimed outlaws when they killed three policemen, accounts of which differ.
So began the prolonged hunt, which ended with Kelly's capture in Glenrowan, in iconic home-made armour made from plough parts. Ned Kelly was executed in 1880, hanged in the Melbourne Goal by order of Sir Redmond Barry. Barry was instrumental in the foundation of the State Library of Victoria where, perhaps ironically, Kelly's "manifesto", the Jerilderie letter and the armour are held.
Kelly's Irish heritage, his contempt for and success in humilating the authorities, his harsh and some say unfair treatment, his bad luck and his daring and notoriety have ensured Kelly's place as folk hero.
View videos and other Kelly artefacts from the State Library of Victoria Ergo site:
Capture of the Kelly Gang
Ned Kelly's Armour
The Life of Ellen Kelly, Ned Kelly's mother
The Jerilderie Letter
Ned Kelly's death mask