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Realia, an Italian term meaning the 'real thing', is library-speak for objects, mementos and artifacts. Realia is mainly found within the Library's heritage collections and has been collected because of its association with people or events in Victorian history.

Ned Kelly’s armour is the best-known piece of realia in the Library, on display until 20 July 2020 in Velvet, Iron, Ashes – our inaugural, free exhibition in the Victoria Gallery. Other examples in the Library's collection include:

  • mementos and artifacts from the Burke and Wills expedition
  • personal items belonging to historic figures in early Melbourne history, such as John Pascoe Fawkner’s walking stick and ink well, or the surveying chain and technical instruments belonging to Robert Hoddle, surveyor of early Melbourne
  • textiles like the Press Dress worn by Mrs Matilda Butters to the mayors ball in 1860
  • historic firearms such as the pistol belonging to Peter Lalor and used at the Eureka Stockade
  • a model of a cable tram made by George Fish in 1897, donated to the Library by his family in 1937

Many of these items are on display in the Changing face of Victoria exhibition, or can be viewed online in the library catalogue – use the term 'realia' to explore the eclectic collection of items held by the Library.