Since this was published, North Melbourne, where PROV is located, is once again in lockdown due to COVID-19, and PROV has had to close. If you plan on visiting the Archive in your state or territory, contact them first. You can find them here: https://www.caara.org.au/index.php/members/member-institutions/.

It’s getting a little easier to access records as COVID-19 restrictions are being eased across Australia.

Archives are once again opening up, albeit with restrictions in place. There are already many barriers facing people who spent time in care in accessing institutions like public archives, but an understanding of what to expect before you go can be helpful.

For those of you outside of Victoria, you can find your state/territory office here: https://www.caara.org.au/index.php/members/member-institutions/. These restrictions will be similar across Australia, so be prepared if you intend to visit and keep yourself, and those around you, safe.

Mitchell Library reading room, NSW

Mitchell Library Reading Room, State Library of NSW

David Taylor, from the Victorian Public Record Office, has prepared the information below to give you a better idea of what to expect if you’re planning on visiting your state or territory archive. There will be differences in each state and territory, and the rules around access to public buildings is changing all the time, so contact the Reading Room you plan to visit before you go. If you need help to access records about your time in care, contact the Find & Connect support service in your state or territory: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/contact/.

The Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room once again opened to the public on the 16th of June. To ensure we’re continuing to keep everyone safe we have made a few temporary changes to our services:

To visit the Reading Room you must:

1. Order a record from the Public Record Office Victoria and/or National Archives Australia collection
AND
2. Book a session prior to your visit at booking.prov.vic.gov.au
Due to space limits, those without prior bookings will not be admitted.

In accordance with information provided by the Department of Health, sessions in the Reading Room are two hours long. Please plan your visit with this time allocation in mind.

You will be able to:

  • Make a booking before coming in (There are two public sessions per day, Monday to Friday,  10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm) View records you have pre-ordered for the two hour sitting
  • Use computers for up to 30 minutes
  • Access the PROV website to view topic pages and lodge complex inquiries
  • Access key resources including Ancestry.com and the Land Titles website
  • Use your own laptop or tablet with free WiFi available
  • Take photographs of records using your mobile phone, tablet or personal digital camera
  • Place copy orders, with credit card payment

The building will be locked and we will only be admitting visitors with bookings.

For the time being, you will not be able to:

  • Seek extended advice from Reading Room staff as this does not meet social distancing requirements
  • Ask a staff member to help you at the public computers
  • Use PROV cameras and scanners
  • Access microfilm, microfiche and other reference material on the shelves
  • Make cash payments
  • Undertake lengthy research as each sitting can only be two hours
  • Remain in the Reading Room after your booking has ended
  • Obtain or partake of refreshments at the Archives Centre foyer
  • Enter the Archives Centre Gallery (you can now view our current exhibition online!)
  • Visit us on Saturdays.

Use this link to make your Reading Room booking booking.prov.vic.gov.au

Please keep an eye on the contact us page of our website for regional centre opening dates as they are announced.

What we are doing to keep you safe:

  • We have established a limit of 15 visitors in the Reading Room to ensure social distancing
  • We have reconfigured the Reading Room to be in line with DHHS COVID-19 regulations
  • We have installed hand sanitisers throughout the building for staff and visitors to use
  • We have increased our cleaning requirements including regular cleaning of doors and handles as well as thorough cleaning of the Reading Room between morning and afternoon visits.
  • Wherever possible, we have implemented new systems and processes to avoid touching objects and to ensure a safe distance
  • We have replaced some of our IT equipment with equipment that can be cleaned thoroughly between uses
  • We have installed signs across the building to remind staff and visitors about hygiene requirements
  • We have installed Perspex barriers at counters to provide additional protection for staff and visitors
  • We have introduced the use of PPE where required.
  • We will quarantine all records used by researchers for 72 hours after use.

For those still not comfortable venturing into the archives just yet, we hope you’ll continue to access our digitised collection items online and follow us on our social media channels to stay connected.

If you’re outside of Victoria, check what’s happening in your state or territory by contacting your local Archive. You can find their details here: https://www.caara.org.au/index.php/members/member-institutions/.