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Ned Kelly at the Library


The Library is home to a variety of objects relating to Ned Kelly, and many that his notoriety inspired. 

This includes the iconic iron armour Kelly wore during his final altercation with the law (now on display in the Redmond Barry Reading Room), the 8000-word Jerilderie Letter, items in our Pictures and Manuscripts Collections, and more.

Learn more about the 19th-century bushranger through the links on this page or on your next visit to the Library.

Who was Ned Kelly?

Black and white headshot photograph of Ned Kelly, a man with dark hair and long beard.

Ned Kelly the day before he was hanged, copy of original photograph taken in 1880 by Charles Nettleton, Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, H18202

Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was Victoria’s most infamous bushranger. He led a group of outlaws known as the Kelly gang in the late 1870s. For 18 months, while on the run from police, they robbed banks, took hostages, chopped down telegraph poles and destroyed part of a railway line. Although finally hanged for fatally shooting three policemen, Kelly’s life and actions have been the subject of debate for more than a century.

Learn more.

Ned Kelly’s armour

Photograph of Ned Kelly's suit of armour against a white/grey background. The armour has been installed on a metal pole.

Suit of armour worn by Ned Kelly, 1880, State Library Victoria, H20171. Left shoulder plate on loan from Museums Victoria. Right shoulder plate purchased with funds from the Sundberg Bequest and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts 2001.

Ned Kelly’s armour is a defining part of his story. All four members of the Kelly gang, which included Ned, his brother Dan and their friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, wore armoured suits in their final confrontation with the police at Glenrowan.

Explore more:

Ned Kelly’s armour: plan your visit

Armour worn by Ned Kelly at the Glenrowan siege on 28 June 1880; Left shoulder plate on loan from Museums Victoria; Right shoulder plate purchased with funds from the Sundberg Bequest and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 2001; Snider - Enfield 0.577 - calibre long rifle belonging to Ned Kelly before 1880; Boot worn by Ned Kelly c. 1870–80, on loan from the descendants of the late Jesse Dowsett.

View Ned Kelly's legendary armour in the Redmond Barry Reading Room on your next visit to the Library.

Thursday, 23 November 2023 - 10:00amTuesday, 31 December 2024 - 6:00pm
Redmond Barry Reading Room

The Jerilderie Letter

Handwritten note that is part of the Jerilderie Letter dictated by Ned Kelly. It reads: This is the document given to me by Ned Kelly when the Bank at Jerilderie was stuck-up in Feby 1879

Letter written by Joe Byrne at the dictation of Ned Kelly, 1879, Manuscripts Collection, State Library Victoria, MS 13361

The Jerilderie Letter is a handwritten document dictated by Ned Kelly to fellow Kelly gang member Joe Byrne. In the 56-page letter, Kelly chronicles the careers of the gang’s members and argued that there were important personal and political reasons behind their actions.

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Ned Kelly’s armour: a suit becomes a symbol

Watch this video for a rare close-up look at Ned Kelly’s armour. Conservation Manager Jane Hinwood takes us on an intimate journey of how the armour was constructed, and reveals the many intricate details beyond what is visible when the armour is on public display.

Learn more.

Ned Kelly’s trial

Black and white wood engraving of Ned Kelly's trial. Kelly is in the dock, while Redmond Barry oversees the case wearing the wig and robes of the British legal system.

The Kelly Trial – The Scene in Court, wood engraving, 1880, publisher: David Syme and Co., Melbourne, illusrated newspaper file, State Library Victoria, IAN06/11/80/201.

After the incident at Stringybark Creek, a jury found Ned Kelly guilty of Constable Thomas Lonigan’s murder, for which he received a death sentence from Justice Redmond Barry.

The trial is depicted in this wood engraving from the Illustrated Australian News.

Learn more about Ned Kelly’s trial.

Ned Kelly information sheet

Black and white etching depicting the execution of bushranger Ned Kelly

The execution of Ned Kelly

Our Ned Kelly information sheet contains information about Ned Kelly's life, including a brief background and timeline, plus information about his legendary suit of armour, key incidents and his trial and execution.

Ned Kelly’s death mask

Ned Kelly's death mask

Death mask of Ned Kelly, Maximillian Ludwig Kreitmayer (maker), State Library Victoria, Gift of the School of Historical Studies, Monash University, 2001, H2001.241

In the 19th century it was common for authorities to make plaster ‘death masks’ of an executed criminal's face, to conduct phrenological analysis. The masks were often put on public display and – not surprisingly – Ned Kelly’s death mask was a source of public fascination.

Kelly was hanged on 11 November 1880. An hour after his death, his hair and beard were shaved, and plaster was applied to his face and head to make a death mask. The next day, the mask was on public display in Bourke Street, along with explanations of how the shape of the head and face represented his criminal tendencies.

View the catalogue record for the mask.

Ned Kelly’s armour: on display in 1933

Black and white image from 1933 of Ned Kelly's armour on display at the Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens

Suit of armour made by Kelly Gang displayed at the Exhibition Buildings in the Carlton Gardens, 1933, Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, H20171/2

This image, published in the Weekly Times on 18 February 1933, shows the suit of armour now held by the State Library Victoria on display at the Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens. The shoulder piece has been incorrectly attached to the back of the armour and can be seen at the right hand side.

View the catalogue record for this photograph.

Eyewitness account of the Kelly Gang’s last stand

Image of a handwritten letter from 1880. It was written by Donald Sutherland to his parent in Scotland, and provides an eyewitness account of the Kelly Gang's last stand in Glenrowan. The image is of the first page of the letter.

Letter written by Donald G. Sutherland to his parents in Caithness, Scotland, 1880, Manuscripts Collection, State Library Victoria, MS 13713

The Library holds in its Manuscripts Collection a letter written by Donald Sutherland, a bank teller at the Bank of Victoria in Oxley, 8 kilometres from Glenrowan, who provides an eyewitness account of Ned Kelly's demeanour on the morning of his capture in Glenrowan.

In Sutherland's letter, written to his parents in Scotland, Ned Kelly is described as lying on a stretcher “quite calm and collected, notwithstanding the great pain he must have been suffering from his wounds”. Sutherland also mentions his reactions upon viewing the charred remains of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, which remind him of “old Knick himself”.

View the catalogue record for this letter.