How to research the history, development, architecture, collections and management of the State Library of Victoria.
1853 January Appropriation (see page Gazette p.8)
1853 July Appointment of Library trustees (see Gazette p.1022)
1854 July 3 Foundation stone laid
1856 February 11 Melbourne Public Library opened: central portion of Swanston Street frontage (50x50 feet)
Late 1850s Picket fence along Swanston Street Forecourt central stairs
1859 May 24 The Queen's Reading Room opened: southern portion of Swanston Street frontage (95x50 feet)
Early 1860s Bronze lions installed in forecourt
1864 December 24 Northern portion of Swanston Street frontage (90x50 feet) opened (now Palmer Hall)
1866 Exhibition buildings: May Rotunda (71 feet in diameter) & Great Hall (220x82 feet); September Iron annexe, running east-west in the eastern half of the block; October North and South Wings finished
1870 Portico (Swanston Street) built
1873 Wrought iron gates installed in forecourt
1874 McArthur Gallery finished – a separate building, joined to the south wing by a covered walkway
1875 McArthur Gallery opened
1876 Wrought iron fence replaced picket fence in forecourt
1877 Little Lonsdale St: iron fence
1883 Electric lighting installed
1884 Iron annexe demolished
1886 September 2 Barry Hall opened: upper level of south wing in Little Lonsdale Street; ground floor later became known as Verdon Gallery
1887 August 23 Statue of Redmond Barry unveiled; October first Buvelot Gallery (later named Swinburne Hall) opened: Little Lonsdale Street near Russell Street
1889 Statue of George & the Dragon purchased and installed in forecourt
1891 Gasoliers installed beside central stairs (later converted to electricity)
1892 McCoy Hall (now Redmond Barry), Stawell Gallery (now Cowen) and La Trobe Galleries completed;
1892 August 8 Lending Library opened
1899 South west Pavilion on Swanston Street completed; Great Hall (which Barry had hoped would last ‘for centuries’) demolished
1904 Both houses of Parliament agreed to end prohibition of Sunday opening for the Library, Museum and Gallery. The Gallery and Museum had opened on Sundays for a period in 1883 and recommenced Sunday opening on 13 November 1904 while the Library followed two weeks later opening on a Sunday for the first time on 27 November 1904
1906 April 21 Baldwin Spencer Hall opened: central section on Russell Street
1907 February Statue of Jeanne d’Arc installed in forecourt; architects Bates, Peebles and Smart appointed to design new Library building
1908 Rotunda demolished
1909 Builders JW & DA Swanson appointed to complete new Library building; October 26 foundation stone laid
1913 November 14 Domed Reading Room opened, in the space formerly occupied by the Great Hall and Rotunda
1919 January 29 to March 4 Library closed due to influenza pandemic. The opening of the Galleries on Sundays was postponed until June 1.
1924 Bronze lions removed from forecourt
1928 October 22 on Little Lonsdale St between Swinburne and Barry Halls: lower level opened as second Buvelot Gallery (later Bindon Hall); October 29 upper level opened as Print Room (later Thorpe Hall); South Rotunda (now blue rotunda) completed
1932 May 3 McAllan Gallery opened
1937 February 24 First World War commemorative statues ‘Wipers’ and ‘The Driver’ unveiled
1938 November 9 Moreton Bay Figs removed from forecourt; after public protests, replaced with Melaleucas; Diagonal stairs from Swanston Street
1939 Wrought iron gates removed from forecourt
1940 North Rotunda (later known as the red rotunda) built
1941 Childers Room
1944 Revolving doors installed in entrance
1948 February First intake to Library training school
1951 July 2 Foundation stone laid for La Trobe Library
1959 Dome sheathed in copper to prevent water leaks
1961 North-West Pavilion completed with an upper storey
1962 North Wing (last remaining portion of 1866 Exhibition Buildings) demolished
1963 Planetarium completed
1965 September 6 La Trobe Library opened (now the La Touche Armstrong Building)
1967 – 1968 National Gallery of Victoria relocated to St Kilda Road
1971 February 27 The Lending Library closed
1973 Public Record Office of Victoria created; work began on restoration of Queen's Hall
1976 Queen's Hall reopened as part of Library
1977 Public Record Office of Victoria leaves 328 Swanston Street
1980 February 29 Reference and Information Centre opens on ground floor of Dome building
1984 December – 1985 January Closed for four weeks for a stocktake
1989 July Closed for four weeks to repair fire damage
1990 Redevelopment begins
1992 North East and South East Wings on Russell Street completed
1993 January 12 Sculpture ‘Architectural fragment’ installed on Swanston Street footpath
1995 North West courtyard glassed in to create new reading room (now the Genealogy Centre)
1997 March 3 refurbished and enlarged Information Centre re-opened to the public on ground floor of Dome building as Trescowthick Information Centre; April Centre officially opened by the Premier; July 13 Museum of Victoria closed, preparatory to move to Carlton Gardens
1998 February Refurbishment of forecourt completed; ‘Wipers’ and ‘The Driver’ removed from forecourt; July Newspaper Reading room opened in glassed-over north east courtyard
1999 Domed Reading Room closed for refurbishing
2001 Keith Murdoch Gallery opened: lower hall, southern portion of Swanston Street frontage
2003 July 8 Domed Reading Room reopened as La Trobe Reading Room; Experimedia south west courtyard opened; September 22 Arts Reading Room opened: south east courtyard; November 27 Cowen Gallery, Redmond Barry Reading Room and Heritage Collections Reading Room opened
2006 November 21 statue of Governor La Trobe unveiled
2007 Substantial completion of the final stage of redevelopment works
2016 July 5 La Trobe Reading Room information desk closed; reference service consolidated at centralised service desk in the Information Centre
2017 Vision 2020 redevelopment works begin
2018 September 21 Opening of the new Russell and La Trobe Street entrances, Russell Street Welcome Zone (formerly Journals & Magazines Reading Room), relocated Newspaper and Family History Reading Rooms (in McArthur Gallery), relocated Arts Reading Room (in Swinburne Gallery), Gateway information desk (in Cowen Gallery, desk service previously located in the Information Centre), and the Isabella Fraser Room. Swanston Street entrance closed until spring 2019.
2019 October 24 The Victoria Gallery (formerly the La Trobe Gallery staff space) opens to the public. December 5 Redeveloped spaces open to the public: Ian Potter Queen's Hall, Swanston Street Entrance (formerly the Foyer), The Quad (formerly Trescowthick Information Centre/Information Centre), Hansen Hall (formerly Palmer Hall), Pauline Gandel Children's Quarter (formerly Experimedia), Conversation Quarter (formerly the Courtyard), Create Quarter (formerly the Arts Library). Ideas Quarter (formerly the Family History & Newspapers Room/mezzanine staff space) opened, as a preview of Start Space opening.
2020 March 12 Official opening of StartSpace in the Ideas Quarter. March 16 Library closed to public, due to coronavirus (COVID-19) public health requirements. Library remained open to staff as a workplace. March 19 Library closed to most staff, as a precaution, as two visitors who had attended the Australian International Documentary Conference at the Library from 1-4 March 2020 had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). In the following days and months, staff were progressively allocated work from home projects. Library also closed to the public. (Access to digital and digitised collections, and limited reference services, continued online). June 15 The Library reopened to the public, after the longest closure in its history. Access to selected study spaces, computers, wifi, and onsite reference services made available. A limited number of visitors allowed, in booked time slots. No access to physical collections at this time. Spaces opened: Swanston Street Welcome Zone, Hansen Hall, The Quad, Cowen Gallery. June 27 More spaces opened, to a limited number of visitors, in booked time slots. Select collections available, by pre-order. Staff retrieved all collections for use (no public access to open shelves). Additional spaces opened: La Trobe Reading Room, Heritage Collection Reading Room, The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall. July 9 Library closed to the public, per government advice, after significant increase in cases of COVID-19 in Victoria. Business critical staff onsite, with most staff working from home. Nov 19 Select Library spaces reopen to the public, with staff-mediated access to collections (no browsing), across 2 set time periods. Maximum 170 visitors.
Watch this virtual 3D reconstruction to discover how the 1856 Melbourne Public Library has evolved into the contemporary State Library of Victoria, spanning an entire city block and bearing traces of more than 100 years of architectural influences.
The institutions now known as Museum Victoria, the National Gallery of Victoria and Public Record Office Victoria have all shared the site at 328 Swanston Street at various times.
1856 to 1869
Melbourne Public Library.
Public Library, Museums and National Gallery.
The Library Museums and National Gallery Act 1869 (no. 357) incorporated the Library with the Museums and the National Gallery.
Public Library of Victoria.
The Public Library, National Gallery and Museums Act 1944 (no. 5053) severed the administrative connection with the Museums and the National Gallery. They became three separate institutions, located on the one site. The Library gradually became known as the Public Library.
State Library of Victoria.
This became the official title of the institution after the passing of the State Library National Gallery, National Museum and Institute of Applied Science Act 1960.
Following the passing of the Library Council of Victoria Act 1965 (no. 7364), the Library became a division of the Library Council of Victoria. The La Trobe Library was also established in 1965.
The Library Board of Victoria was established in February 1997 under the Libraries Act 1988 as amended by the Arts Institutions (Amendment Act) 1996. The amending act changed the name of the Council of the State Library of Victoria to the Library Board of Victoria. The Board is subject to the direction and control of the Minister for the Arts.
From 17 November 2014 the Library repositioned its brand, and became known as State Library Victoria.
1856-1873 Augustus Henry Tulk
1873-1881 Henry Sheffield
1881-1895 Thomas Francis Bride, LL.D.
1895-1896 Michael Francis Dowden, LL.B.
1896-1925 Edmund La Touche Armstrong, M.A., LL.B.
1925-1931 Robert Douglass Boys, B.A.
1931-1943 Ernest Roland Pitt, B.A.
1943-1944 Thomas Fleming Cooke, B.A.
1944-1945 William Charles Baud, B.A.
1945-1960 Colin Alexander McCallum, O.B.E., B.A.
1960-1965 John Andrew Feely, B.Sc.
1965-1967 Thomas Arthur Kealy, B.A. (acting)
1967-1981 Kenneth Horn, B.A., Mus.B., Dip.N.Z.L.S.
1982-1985 Warren Horton, B.A.
1986-1989 Jane La Scala, B.SocSc.
1989-1993 Leah Mann, B.A., Dip.Soc.St.
1993 Derek Whitehead OAM, BA (Hons), BD (Hons) MLib, GradDipLib
1993-1997 Helen Tait, B.A., Dip.N.Z.L.S.
1997 (Acting) Derek Whitehead OAM, BA (Hons), BD (Hons) MLib, GradDipLib
1997-2002 Frances Awcock, B.A., Dip.Lib.
2003-2012 Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, BA (Hons), Dip Info Management - Archives Administration
2012 (Acting) Sue Hamilton
2012-2015 Sue Roberts, BA (Hons), PGDipLib, MA
2015 (Acting) Justine Hyde
2015- Kate Torney, B. Communications
The Library is closed from December 25 to January 3. From January 4 2021 we will be partially open to pre-booked and walk-up visitors and our Ask A Librarian service will resume for assistance with your research inquiries online and over the phone.