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Welcome to archival research. Below you will find a set of basic 'How To' videos to help you navigate the Victorian State Government's archival collection and start your research. To search the collection click on the magnifying glass on the top right of this page. 

Enjoy the journey!


How do I create an account at PROV? 

How do I search the collection and filter the results?

How do I order a record or box of records and view them? 

How do I order a digital copy or paper copy of the record? 

How do I use direct entry as a government agency user or public researcher?

What will I find on my dashboard? 

About us and our collection

Unlike libraries which hold published material (books, journals, cds etc.), archives hold primary sources--original records and documents – which have been generated during the course of doing government business. Records take a variety of forms – files, handwritten volumes, cards, maps and digital files - and are generally unique and irreplaceable. Archival records are described and arranged according to the order determined and used by the government body from which the records originate, unlike library material which is typically arranged by subject or author.

PROV provides descriptive guides to the records and the government bodies that created them so that you can find, discover and interpret records in our Collection. Our descriptive guides are the archival equivalent of a library catalogue. Archival material cannot be borrowed by the public. However the government bodies that created the records may retrieve records if required for current government administration.

Public Record Office Victoria is Victoria's State Government archive. We preserve less than 5% of government records, often those records that are of significant value to individuals or the State of Victoria. Our records date from the mid-1830s, the early period of European settlement of the Port Phillip District, up until recently. The collection includes memories of events and decisions great and small, records of immigration and shipping, criminal trials and prisons, premiers and governors, royal commissions, boards of inquiry, wills and probates and more. Watch this video for more information on how we assess records for long term preservation. 

We use an archive control model (ACM) to arrange and describe records in our collection. The ACM is the foundation for documenting information about records and their context, helping researchers to locate and understand government records, who created them and for what purpose. 

PROV's ACM has three main entities:

  • Records (digital or physical series and items)
  • Agents (the government organisations that create and manage records)
  • Functions (major responsibilities of government organisations)

Each of these entities can be searched across in our catalogue. 

Visit the ACM Topic Page for more detailed information. 

Our online research team are here to help, but try the website section Explore the Collection first. Due to the hundreds of requests we receive each month the average response time may be two weeks. Visit our contact us page for more information. 

Explore archives by topic

Black and white photo of kids on a school bus

Search the collection via these simple topic guides

Photographic collections

Black and white photo of a ship on the ocean

Digitised and non-digitised photographic collections

Online galleries and exhibitions

Sepia photograph of the official party from the visit of Lord Hopetoun

PROV's free online exhibitions

Online collections

Black and white photo of crew unloading a ship

Digitised records

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples