Digitised collections

The Library holds many important, rare and fragile items that record and reflect Victoria's history and culture. These items require careful treatment, storage and handling to ensure they are preserved for future generations. Because of this, access to many of these items is restricted.

Through a strategic digitisation program, which began more than ten years ago, the Library has converted many original heritage items into digital objects that can be accessed by users online in a variety of ways. Items include printed material, photographs, manuscripts, maps, sheet music, newspapers, audio recordings and more. Digitising activities are undertaken in accordance with the Library's Digital preservation policy.

The benefits of digitising collection material

By digitising collection material the Library is helping to:

  • preserve original objects
  • provide the information most users need, resulting in decreased handling of originals
  • increase access to the Library's collections
  • give access to digital materials online and on demand, wherever and whenever users need access
  • provide added functionality, utility and interaction unavailable in the original, by utilising appropriate software
  • increase efficiencies
  • reduce the amount of staff time needed to retrieve original objects
  • minimise conservation work required, due to decreased handling of original objects.

What is being digitised?

Hundreds of thousands of Library items have been digitised so far, including photographs, maps, rare 19th-century pamphlets, glass plate negatives and rare artworks on paper.

The Library is committed to continuing this program of digitisation, and by last year had digitised 43 per cent of our unique Victorian material: 49,741 heritage items and 233,098 Victorian items have been digitised and made available online.

A number of key historical Victorian manuscripts associated with the founding of Port Phillip have been digitised and transcribed. Known as the Port Phillip papers, they are now accessible online through the Library's catalogue. 

A number of historic collections are currently being scanned at high resolution and released online as part of the Victorian historic publications digitisation project.