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Issue #1/2014
February 2014

Public Record Office Despatch

Streets of Melbourne

On display at the Old Treasury Building

Why not explore the Streets of Melbourne on a curated walking tour? Discover secrets, treasures and topics to share with friends on one of Kenneth Park’s walks of Swanston Street (16 Feb), La Trobe Street (15 Mar) or Lonsdale Street (12 Apr).
Explore the fascinating history behind Melbourne’s city grid and its surveyor Robert Hoddle. Discover the past of Melbourne’s quirky laneways and iconic streets through historic records from the collection of Public Record Office Victoria.
In 1837, Robert Hoddle, the officer in charge of producing a survey of the Port Phillip District, designed Melbourne’s city ‘grid’ – so called as it consisted of forty-eight rectangular blocks separated by parallel streets that alternated between wide boulevards and smaller streets.
Celebrate Hoddle’s vision through a rarely seen collection of original survey maps, letters, field books, surveying instruments and watercolour paintings.

Streets of Melbourne is on display at the Old Treasury Building until May 2014. Entry is free.
For further information or to book a tour visit

Image: Flinders Street Station, c.1920. Photographic Collection: Railway Negatives, PROV VPRS 12800/P1, item H 1926

The 'Gentle Sex': Women Convicted of Murder

February showcase record

Staff member Christine O’Donnell had a fascinating find in the archives when researching women convicted of murder.
“I came across some files (VPRS 264 and VPRS 1100) which were compiled to assist the Governor in deciding whether the royal prerogative of mercy should be applied to persons convicted of a capital offence and given the mandatory death sentence (although some offenders, notably those under 21 years of age were sentenced to the Governor's pleasure).
“These records intrigued me as they show a sadder, seedier and more desperate side of life than the one that most of us experience. They reflect the standards and hardships of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
“What drove these women (and in some cases, girls) to an act of desperation? In some cases, such as infanticide or deaths through abortion, it is a reflection on the social mores of the time – pregnancy outside marriage is a falling from grace and “sinful” – or perhaps an attempt to limit the size of the family. Sometimes, it appears that the acts of infanticide may have occurred as a result of post-natal depression.
“In other cases, the murderess sees the death of another – usually her husband – as a means to protect her family from drunken rages and physical, verbal and sometimes sexual abuse.  In yet other instances, acts of murder are committed for revenge and, in one very interesting case, I discovered a case of “unrequited love”, stalking, poetry, unbridled rage and insanity culminating in the death of an innocent woman.”
Information on this topic can be found in VPRS 516 Central Register of Female Prisoners, VPRS 264 Capital Case Files and VPRS 1100 Capital Sentences Files. Further information can be obtained through research in VPRS 30 Criminal Trial Briefs and VPRS 521 Register of Names, Particulars and Person Description of Prisoners Received.

Image: Photograph of Emma Leah Lonsdale from the Central Register of Female Prisoners, 1915. VPRS 516 / P0, unit 13-369

Wish You Were Here… but only until the end of the month

On display at the Victorian Archives Centre

Since the early 1900s, Geelong’s picture postcards have provided an insight into the personal stories of its people and the pride of a developing city.

From the bronze figure of farmer and son striking the bell in the T & G Clock Tower, to a cyclist approaching the gas lamp roundabout in Malop Street, Wish You Were Here depicts a diverse range of activities, where blank canvasses and brief messages reveal intimate details of a growing Geelong.
Wish You Were Here is on display at the Victorian Archives Centre until 28 February. Entry is free. For further information visit

Provenance: call for papers

Have you written an article based on records that you have researched from our collection? If so, we want to hear from you.
Provenance is our free scholarly journal which features both peer-reviewed articles and general interest articles.
We are now calling for articles for the 2014 edition. Submission deadline is 5 May 2014.

For further information, including author guidelines and previous editions, visit

Image: Plan of Richmond Park from Lee Andrews' article The Mystery of the Cottage in Burnley Park, Provenance 2013 (VPRS 8168/ P2, unit 3088).


What's On

Discover the archives through one of our events

6 Mar
Free Tour of the Archives

6 Mar
Seminar: Women in the Archives

8 Mar
Victorian Archives Centre – Saturday opening
10 Mar
Victorian Archives Centre – closed for Labour Day
15 Mar
Streets of Melbourne Walking Tour: La Trobe Street
29 Mar
Victorian Archives Centre – Saturday opening

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