The State Library of Victoria is the central library of the state of Victoria, Australia, located in Melbourne. It is on the block bounded by Swanston, La Trobe, Russell, and Little Lonsdale streets, in the northern centre of the central business district. The library holds over 2 million books and 16,000 serials, including the diaries of the city's founders, John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and the folios of Captain James Cook, R.N.. It also houses the original armour of Ned Kelly.
In 1853, the decision to build a state library was made at the instigation of Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe and Mr Justice Redmond Barry, Q.C. (Sir Redmond from 1860). A competition was held to decide who would design the new building; local architect Joseph Reed, who later designed the Melbourne Town Hall, Ormond College and the Royal Exhibition Building, won the commission. On 3 July 1854, the recently inaugurated Governor Sir Charles Hotham laid the foundation stone of both the new library and the University of Melbourne. The library opened in 1856, with a collection of 3,800 books chosen by Mr Justice Barry, the President of Trustees. Augustus H. Tulk, the first librarian, was appointed three months after the opening.
The library underwent major refurbishments between 1990 and 2004, designed by architects Ancher Mortlock & Woolley. The project cost approximately A$200 million. The reading room closed in 1999 to allow for renovation, during which natural light was returned. The renamed La Trobe Reading Room reopened in 2003.
The Library’s vast collection dates back to 1854 and includes material on almost every subject you can think of, with a special focus on material from Victoria. From art, children’s books, war and family history to film, business and industry, and Australian history, there is plenty for curious browsers and serious researchers alike. While most people know about the Library's extensive book collections, there's plenty to surprise in other historical collections, which date back to 1854. They include more than 350,000 photographs, personal manuscripts & diaries, maps, old magazines & journals, newspapers, comics, and even old advertising and theatre programs. There is also an eclectic array of textiles and personal items.
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