Researching buildings and houses

Learn how to research the history of your house or a prominent Melbourne building using the Library’s collection of architectural drawings, maps and online tools.

Sands & McDougall postal directories, 1862-1974

These directories are a standard reference source for identifying the occupants of addresses in Melbourne. Some of them are available online and the microfiche sets are available at most major public libraries in Victoria. 

There are two major sequences for searching:

(1) Alphabetically by surname

(2) Geographically by street address within a given municipality

There is also a separate trade index. The directories list ‘occupants' as distinct from ‘owners', with occupants taken to mean the 'heads' of households. 

From 1912 to 1950, the directories included the names of residents of country towns, though no addresses were shown and the lists seem too short to be complete. Note that the directories are often a couple of years out of date at the year of publication. 

These books cannot generally be used to date a particular house or building, though they can be useful for a quick overview. Municipal rate books offer a better source for dating houses.

There are several other series of directories also widely available on microfiche, such as Port Phillip/Victorian directories 1839-1967, Balliere's directories 1868-1881, and Sands & Kenny 1857-1861. These are located in the Newspapers and Family History reading room at GMF 98.

See here for a full overview of directories and where to access them.

Melbourne University Architectural Collection

The Wilson-Hall, University of Melbourne, A/S07/06/79/36


This collection numbers some 4,000 architectural drawings, which have been donated by the Faculty of Architecture, University of Melbourne.  Over 50 prominent architects are represented and highlights include drawings by William Pitt, Walter Burley Griffin (Capitol Theatre), Nathaniel Billing and John James Clark.

Much of the collection has been catalogued. For any items not catalogued, there is a card index. Contact us via Ask a Librarian providing details of the building you're researching (including address, architect, builder and building type if known) and a librarian will consult the index on your behalf. 

Australian architectural index

The Australian architectural index was compiled by Miles Lewis in 1986. It covers the 19th century to the 1950s and was prepared from a substantial card index held in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. 

There are three sequences to search by: architect, building type and location, which include entries for tender advertisements, press reports, published illustrations, architectural drawings and books.

As well as being online, it is also available on microfiche at SLV.

Melbourne City Council

Melbourne City Council notices of intent to build, 1850-1916 (Burchett Index) 

*The Burchett index is now included in the Australian Architectural Index (see above). The information below details what it includes.

Based on Melbourne City Council building registers, the Burchett Index is a chronological list of all notices of new buildings and major alterations and additions to buildings in the City of Melbourne for the years 1850-1916. 

Included are the suburbs of East Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy, Flemington, Newmarket and Kensington, as well as the CBD.  Each entry shows date, address, builder, owner and architect.

An index to architects named in the notices of intention to build is also available in the same set of microfiche.

You can read more about the building registers on the website of the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). PROV houses the original registers.

If you do not know when a building was constructed or altered, or the name of the architect, but you know where it was located, then you will need to view the street name index (available for Melbourne, East Melbourne, Fitzroy, Carlton and Flemington).

This location index is not available at the State Library of Victoria and has to be accessed via the Victorian Government Library Service. The index has moved offsite to Werribee so you need to email to arrange a viewing:

The library also holds another card index arranged in chronological sequence for individual architects.

Building journals

A select bibliography of building journals is available in a subject file titled 'Building- Materials', which you can order at the Ask a Librarian desk or phone 8664 7002.

Several of these titles have been fully indexed on cards for the years 1888-1905. For questions related to the index, please contact us via Ask a Librarian

Periodicals index

AAPI: Australian architecture periodicals index

This index - forerunner to the database Arch on Informit - covers journal articles from the period 1910 to 1983. 

It includes subjects used in the fields of architecture, conservation and restoration, planning and landscape architecture. A feature of the index is that it provides access to biographical information on architects. 

Consult the scope notes before use. This set of microfiche is housed with the above-mentioned Australian Architectural Index.

Local history index

The local history index (on microfiche) is arranged by geographic location, for example, “Prahran (Vic.) Residences”. It contains references to articles on different types of buildings such as offices, schools and residences; plus references to architects. The card index stopped in 1993 and subsequent entries are in the online Australiana Index.

Illustrations index

This is a card index to illustrations in newspapers, journals and books, especially for the period 1860-1920.  It is also indexed by geographic location.

For questions related to the illustrations index, please contact us via Ask a Librarian