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Aussie icons star in Velvet, Iron, Ashes

Credit: Ned Kelly's armour on display in Velvet, Iron, Ashes. Photo by Patrick Rodriguez.

Media release

This is an archived media release. Links were correct at the time of publication, but may have changed or expired.

Tuesday 22 October 2019


State Library Victoria today launched a major new exhibition, Velvet, Iron, Ashes, exploring the surprising connections between some of Victoria’s greatest stories, open from 24 October 2019 until 12 July 2020.

The free, interactive exhibition draws on the experience of using a library to offer a new way of discovering Victoria’s history. Visitors will become their own detectives as they learn about the unexpected links between some of the state’s most influential people, events and icons including Ned Kelly, the Ashes Urn, Freddo Frog, Yallourn Power Station and even Nappie Wash.

Velvet, Iron, Ashes is the first-ever exhibition in the Library’s brand new Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, and established as part of the Library’s $88.1 million Vision 2020 redevelopment.

President of the Library Board of Victoria and a Director of the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, John Wylie AM, said the opening of the Library’s most ambitious exhibition marked an exciting moment in the transformation of Australia’s oldest and busiest public library.

“Victoria Gallery is setting a global benchmark in library exhibitions and Velvet, Iron, Ashes is proof that the Library offers so much more than just books. Visitors will be delighted to discover many paintings, maps, photographs, costumes and armour all on display in this wonderful free exhibition. Of course, we are also excited that the Ashes Urn will soon return to Victoria to star exclusively in Velvet, Iron, Ashes – a fitting way to celebrate our Australian cricketers’ great achievement in retaining the Ashes in England,” said Mr Wylie.

“What makes this exhibition so special is that it encourages visitors of all ages and backgrounds to explore the stories behind the extraordinary people, events and icons that have shaped our great state – in surprisingly connected ways.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Creative Industries, Harriet Shing, said: “I am delighted to open the doors to Victoria Gallery and its first-ever exhibition. This beautiful new gallery will play an important role in our community because it’s dedicated to telling the stories of Victoria’s vibrant history. Velvet, Iron, Ashes is a must-see exhibition for Victorians and tourists alike.”

The exhibition will showcase more than 200 items from the Library’s vast collection and from other major institutions and private collections. Highlight pieces include Ned Kelly’s armour, a glittering costume designed to represent modern Victoria in 1934 and the Ashes Urnwhich is being exclusively loaned from Marylebone Cricket Club in London and displayed from 26 November 2019 until 23 February 2020.

Some of the stories featured in the exhibition include:

  •                   One of Victoria’s greatest philanthropists of the nineteenth century
  •                   One of Melbourne’s first professional social workers turned pioneering businesswoman
  •                   Australia’s answer to Willy Wonka
  •                   The rise and fall of Victoria’s first ‘model town’
  •                   Melbourne’s part in the world’s greatest air race
  •                   Melbourne life 100 years after European settlement
  •                   The birth of the Ashes Urn

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About Victoria Gallery
Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, is a brand new world-class exhibition space at State Library Victoria. It has been designed by multi-award winning Australasian firm, Architectus and one of Scandinavia’s most recognised architectural practices, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. Victoria Gallery occupies a 500-square-metre grand heritage space that originally opened in 1892 as the home of National Gallery of Victoria (until 1968). It subsequently housed Melbourne Museum’s ethnographic collection (until 1998–99) and then served as a workspace for librarians. Now, the original architecture has been carefully restored to create a home for the Library's great treasures, telling the stories of the state of Victoria over the past 180 years. It opens as part of the Library's Vision 2020 redevelopment, an ambitious project that will transform the Library's incomparable heritage spaces, creating destinations for myriad purposes and enabling the Library to offer a range of new services.

About the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation
The John and Myriam Wylie Foundation provides financial and non-financial support for worthy and well-run charitable organisations in all walks of life, especially in education, the indigenous community, health and sport, and medical research in Australia. It has to date supported over 50 organisations and causes. It aims to make an impact, not a statement, and seeks to assist charitable organisations in meaningful ways over and above pure financial support. It is privately funded by John and Myriam and incurs no administration costs. Its directors are John and Myriam, and independent director Roger Harley.