The RHSV Collection is one of Australia’s most significant historical collections focusing on the Victorian experience in Australian history. The Collection continues to expand with donations from the public and Society members. Donations have been received from early settlers, their descendants, amateur and professional historians, societies and community organisations making it a rich and diverse collection covering social, economic, political, and cultural aspects of Victoria’s history. See the Treasures of the RHSV webpage for a glimpse. For further information about the materials we collect, see the RHSV Collection Policy.

We offer personal advice and assistance to individual researchers and a research service to business organisations and government agencies. Individual members receive the first hour of research free of charge.

The library and manuscript collections are open to the public 10am-4pm Monday-Thursday and 10am-3pm Friday. Members research free of charge (and joining is easy). Non-members – pay a daily research fee of $16.50.

About the collections:

Library Collection

The RHSV Library collection is one of the oldest and most important historical collections in the state. As well as books, the collection consists of rare pamphlets, documents, ephemera, newspaper cuttings on a variety of topics. The Library also contains journals and newsletters of historical societies, organisations and schools, and published and typescript family histories. Directories in the Collection include Victorian Municipal Directories (incomplete), Sands & MacDougall Directory (1857-1974) and Bradshaw’s Guide.


Manuscript Collection

The society’s collection of manuscripts range from official government documents to personal letters and diaries.

The Manuscript Collection, which exceeds 20,000 items, holds a rich archive of documents, private papers, research articles and memorabilia donated to the Society. Letters from the goldfields, the log-book of the Oliver Lang (Liverpool to Melbourne 1854), and the diary of Rev. Francis Hales (1874), are examples of references which can be used.

Several series of newspaper cutting books, all indexed will attract much interest. Particularly strong in shipping, local history and biographical information, the books supplement published material.

Access: Research in the Manuscripts collection is by appointment on selected days/times with the Collections Manager: All researchers in the Manuscripts collection must fill in an Application for Use of Manuscripts Collection Form.
Copying of manuscripts items is by application to the Collections Manager, and cannot be automatically provided off site. The supported practice is for research to be conducted at the RHSV by appointment with the Collections Manager.


Pioneer Register

The RHSV has collected and maintained a register of early colonists in the state of Victoria which is of great historical value. It contains more than 2200 forms. Access to the Historical Register is by appointment with the Librarian

In 1909 the Historical Society of Victoria (becoming the Royal Historical Society of Victoria in 1952) was formed by people determined to capture the history of the state of Victoria. This was to be achieved by creating the ‘Register of early colonists who arrived in Victoria before 21st November 1856′, that captured information about early Victorians. Later this register a was broadened to become the ‘Historical Register of Persons Who arrived or were born in Victoria before 1900, and/or their descendents.’

People were invited to fill in the forms of their relatives and associates in order to capture information about individual colonists as well as their familial relationships.

Information requested in the registers included:

Full name
Date and place of birth
Name of the parents and their residences
Date of arrival in Victoria and name of ship
Places of residences in Victoria and with dates
public offices held
Literary work, publications, inventions or other work of public benefit
Date and place of marriage
Name of wife in full, with parents names and place of residence
Names of children
Portrait if available
Signature and relationship of the Recorder.

You can fill in an Historical Register form for your ancestors who traveled to or were born in Victoria prior to 1900: Download the form and return to or RHSV, 239 A’Beckett Street, Melbourne VIC 3000.


Image Collection

The RHSV’s image collection of over 30,000 objects includes items of national significance, such as a painting by the Aboriginal artist William Barak, an engraving by Tom Roberts, drawings by Jane Cannan and lithographs by Eugene von Guerard, Nicholas Chevalier and S.T. Gill. Apart from original artworks, the Images Collection also includes postcards, maps and parish plans, and items of museum ephemera.

The RHSV holds approximately 2,000 maps that range from rare manuscript maps to parish plans tracing the history of land occupation throughout the State.

The society’s collection of historical photographs dates back to the 1850s and 60s and includes daguerreotypes, albumen prints, silver gelatin prints, glass negatives and glass slides. Major subject areas are portraiture, street scenes – both Melbourne and many Victorian country towns, architectural and occupational.

Access: Appointments must be made with the Image Collection Curator to view the images collection or to submit a research request. Reproductions of many of these images may be made to order.


Tours of the collections are available to community groups, schools and affiliated societies. Bookings are essential – for further information and bookings phone 03 9326 9288.



The RHSV holds regular exhibitions which draw from our collections. For more information check the What’s On page.