Visiting Public Record Office Victoria

Public Libraries Victoria Local Studies staff recently met at Public Record Office Victoria and were given an update on what’s new at Victoria’s State Archives by Access Service Officers Sarah and Heather.  Their role is to assist researchers in the reading room, the online help desk, answering emails, retrieving records (picking and returning) and monitoring the physical collection, alerting if necessary the conservation team to related issues such as mould in the paper records. They also assist with digital projects.

The permanent records collection is housed at the Victorian Archives Centre, North Melbourne, a building which they share with National Archives of Australia. Open and Closed records are held according to the Public Records Act. Various Places of Deposit (PODs) repositories are also scattered throughout the state including Bendigo, Beechworth, Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and Ballarat.  PROV works with government agencies and provides recordkeeping advice, transfer of permanent records and more.

With over 160 volunteers, projects undertaken include indexing, describing records, digitizing and re-housing records. PROV works with the large genealogy giants Ancestry.com and FamilySearch which promotes PROV collections on their platforms. FamilySearch have digitized wills and probates up to 1950.  The Koorie Records Unit provides research assistance to Aboriginal people wishing to access records relevant to their personal and community histories.

PROV publish an interesting newsletter, blog posts to their website and also maintain Facebook Twitter, Instagram and Linked In accounts on social media. Users of the collection are encouraged to write up their research to contribute to the Provenance Journal. The website is often the first port of call for visitors and researchers. Topic guides are arranged by subject, replacing the old “Finding guides”. Each topic page includes a search form imbeded on that page for direct access to what is in the collection.

PROV are redesigning their catalogue and have been testing new functionality for searching the PROV collection via a Beta version. Users are encouraged to use this and offer feedback.
The aim is to have less clicks and for a search to be simpler and to integrate series / agencies / functions. More topic pages are also to be developed. A user once signed in will be able to curate their own collections as well as leave comments. Terminology is being updated and there will be permalinks created so that users can bookmark finds and also share on social media.
Some content is digitized and available immediately on the site via an image viewer. There is a plan to be able to download documents as a PDF.
A separate image viewer is being built for users to access born digital material.  Information from the now retired PROV wiki will be linked to relevant information on item pages (such as material relating to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games).

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