It’s the last day of Victoria’s snap lockdown. I’ve been back to working from home for two days and due to the snap nature of the absolutely necessary lockdown, this time I wasn’t able to collect any material from the PMI. Thankfully PMI staff have remote access to the onsite computers, so I am able to access the electronic resources. I was exploring them, trying to find something that I could use to write a blog post about, when I was struck by their diversity and complexity. So I thought, rather than use them as a resource for a blog post- why not make them the focus of the blog post? So that’s what I’m going to do.
The PMI is still very much a hard copy library, and the majority of material accessed by our members is the hard copy collection. That being said, we do have an extensive array of electronic material. Currently this is only available for members to access on the computers at the PMI, as it is only available on a physical sever rather than on the cloud. We are hoping to change this in the future, and make the out of copyright material available online to members.
Because it isn’t immediately obvious, many of our members aren’t aware of the electronic material, unless they are searching on the catalogue and electronic material comes up as a result. The exceptions to this are the highest use electronic areas the Sands and McDougall Directories, which we have members coming in specifically to use. Sands and McDougall Directories are post office directories. Essentially what happened was the company went round to every house in Melbourne originally, and then Victoria, and asked who lived there and recorded it. The State Library has digistised some, but not all, if you want to have a look http://digital.slv.vic.gov.au/R/?func=collections&collection_id=3907
They are a fantastic resource for tracing people, or specific addresses. The earliest the PMI has is from 1860 when it was Sands, Kenny and Co.
We run up to 1942 with these directories electronically, though not all years are available, and have most of the rest on microfiche, which see a surprising amount of use, especially the ones from the 1970s. If you’re trying to find a person, it helps if they have an unusual surname. Trying to find a Smith or a Jones is like trying to find a piece of hay in a haystack. It’s also worth remembering that street numbers change if you’re tracking down a particular property- especially Chapel Street. You can usually find the place you are looking for because the directories are organised so they tell you which streets the addresses are between and the street names are less prone to change.
But the Sand and Mac Directories are the tip of the iceberg. Even just looking at the subset of directories you’ll also find street directories, other postal directories, a couple of medical directories, directories for other Australian capitals and directories from some rural towns. This is essential small scale primary source information.
Then if you step beyond directories, the rest of the electronic resources are divided into a number of categories. If you find one on the catalogue, it will be listed as location: library computers and the call number will be the folder you can find the resource in. So I thought I’d give you a bit of a rundown of the folders and what you’re likely to find within.
The folders are:
Audio recording: Mainly recordings of PMI and Prahran Historical and Arts Society (PHAS) talks, and a couple of interviews. Everything from Stonnington City Brass, to the origins of Toorak, to some PMI and PHAS AGMs. In fact if anyone is interested, you can hear the 1986 PMI AGM below- it includes a talk about Prahran Pubs and the creation of the local history side of the PMI’s collection.
Births Deaths Marriages Indexes: These are by no means a complete births, deaths and marriages indexes. For those you should go to the Births Deaths and Marriages office for your state. These are some of the more specific ones though. For example Anglican Marriages in the districts and parishes of Alexandra and Yea 1859-1949 and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Beechworth. If it’s that level of specificity you’re looking for though, they can be incredibly helpful. You can see the introduction to St Andrew’s below.
Books: This is the big category. These are book in electronic formats and contains 804 items. Many of these you will also find in the hardcopy collection. There’s a lot of digitised versions of early history books, like the cyclopedias of each state and early pictorial histories. There’s also more recent born digital material, as more people begin to make work only available electronically, such as the Message Tree Project and the Ireland Family of Boronia, both of which were only added in 2020. Remember all this material is discoverable on the catalogue the same as the hard copy books. Electronic books are an area we are expecting to see grow. Unfortunately their existence can be quite hard to keep track of because not everyone who makes something electronically thinks to lodge it with a the State Library or the National Library, which is one of the best ways for us to discover new material. On the flip side, electronic work is sometimes free, or at least cheaper than a hard copy would be. You can see the opening page of the Ireland Family of Boronia below.
Cemeteries: This one is fairly self explanatory- indexes of cemeteries from across Victoria ranging from Alberton to Yea. Some have headstone pictures and indexes of those buried there, others are scans of burial register books or a combination of all. You can see a page from the Barnawartha Burial Register below.
Census: Again, fairly self explanatory and in this case not extensive. We have information on the 1836-7 and 1838 Melbourne censuses and 1838 Port Phillip census.
Compilations: This one is a bit of a grab bag, it’s essentially electronic resources that fit across two or more other categories, or don’t quite fit anywhere neatly. Such as a history of a town and the history of a cemetery in together, or gold mining sites in multiple towns, or the Rotary Club of Bendigo, or Koondrook Tramway photos from 2004. As I said, a bit of a mixture. You can see one of the Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins information boards below.
Documents: Electronic material that isn’t books. Mainly historical articles. From houses in Carlton to Russian emigration.
Electoral Rolls: Not an extensive selection: 1899 Federal referendum, 1939 and 1946 Commonwealth electoral rolls for Victoria. We do have Ancestry as well which has access to further electoral rolls.
Enviro Stories: This is an interesting category. A few years ago I got permission from Enviro Stories to download their work and add it to the collection. Enviro-Stories was established by PeeKdesigns environmental education consultants in 2009. The program involves students learning about their local area and passing this knowledge on to others through storytelling. The program has proven to be a simple but effective concept that enables sponsors to engage students from throughout their region. https://www.envirostories.com.au/about/
These are great local histories, with kids telling the stories of their local communities. You can see the opening page of Loving Lakes Entrance below.
Government Gazettes: Government Gazettes from the 19th century. We have a number of these in hard copy as well. They are essentially a record of what the government was doing. They are still created today. For interests sake you can find the modern ones at http://www.gazette.vic.gov.au/gazette_bin/recent_gazettes.cfm
Heritage Studies: Each year we go through the websites of every council in Victoria and determine if there are any new heritage or conservation studies available, then download them and save them to the server. These are invaluable, especially to heritage architects and anyone writing new heritage studies. They are also great primary source information and as they don’t stay on the council websites indefinitely they can be very hard to find. Having them in a central repository, makes them significantly more accessible. We stretch the definition of heritage studies to include heritage reports such as the one from Malmsbury below.
Indexes: Not a complicated one. Indexes to books in the PMI collection, some compiled by volunteers, others scanned from the books to make them more accessible.
Legal Records: This one is a small category that might expand one day. At the moment it just holds the Petty Sessions of North East Victoria.
Newspapers: We only have three: Lang Guardian, Mount Alexander Mail and Ruffy Review. As a rule we don’t collect newspapers because they are covered in such detail by the State Library.
Periodicals: These are the newsletters and journals of pretty much every historical society in Victoria. We collect them and index them so they are key word searchable on the catalogue. At the moment the majority of the periodicals from the 229 organisations are also available in hard copy in the library. We are in the process of reviewing this policy. This is the small scale of local history, locals telling their local stories and one of the keystones of the PMI’s collection.
Pictorial Collections: This is another smaller collection, we have Mortlake, Bindi Station, Chapel Street, Dandenong, Golden Plains Shire Bridges and Whroo. You can see Piggoreet Bridge in the photo below.
Pioneers: Pioneer registers. Burra to Bendigo, Pioneers along the Hume, Queensland founding families, Shoalhaven, Wodonga, Darling Downs, Gosford and Moruya.
Police Gazette: Really useful source of information about anyone who interacted with the police in the 1800s. I’ve written about them on the blog before so I won’t go into detail here. My favourite parts are the incredibly detailed physical descriptions which can be invaluable if you can find an ancestor so described.
Rate Books: These are scans of rate books from Ballarat East, Mount Eliza, Prahran, Wodonga, Yackandandah and Yea. They can be quite hard to read, but if you’re trying to find out more about a specific address, or a specific person, they are incredibly useful. You can see a section of the Prahran rate book from 1856 below.
Schools: Records from a handful of schools and school districts: Belmont High School, GW Brown, Indigo Shire, Monbulk College, Schools of the Surf Coast.
Theses: These are theses from all the Victorian universities. We’ve had a volunteer going through all their repositories and downloading and saving the relevant documents. This is an ongoing project, but covers a wide range of Victorian and Australian history.
Vertical File: The Veritical File is our ephemera collection, from newspaper articles, to theatre programs, to cooking booklets, to pamphlets and brochures. The small scale of history that often gets lost. The majority of the Vertical File is actually in hard copy. We have a volunteer who is working on indexing and filing all the material and at some point in the future we hope to be able to scan more of it and make it accessible electronically as well. You can find out more about the Vertical File here https://institutingthepast.wordpress.com/2019/05/03/collection-spotlight-ephemera/ and see some examples of the hard copy collection in the photo below
So that’s the break down of our electronic resources. As you can see they are varied and complex. So next time you’re in the library, come along and have an explore. We look forward to making some of them available to members through the website at some point in the future.
I hope you’ve found it interesting
PMI Collections Librarian February 2021.