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Author: Charlie Farrugia
Senior Collections Advisor
An exhibition cabinet has been set up in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room to display the records from the PROV Collection that featured in the documentary. The display will continue for a limited period. From my perspective, the most interesting point collectively about these records is that none of them were located within the five series that constitute the Kelly Historical Collection. It is a great example of the “treasures” that can be uncovered by anyone prepared to dig into the Collection. The records are:
- VPRS 24/P0, unit 411, Inquest Deposition Files, inquest # 1880/938, Edward Kelly (VA 862 Office of the Registrar-General).
The inquest file, to me, is significant because it does not record that an autopsy was conducted during it. I do not think this is surprising. Inquests were required to be conducted for any criminal executed and it would not have required a dissection of the body to establish that the case of death was judicial hanging. In a scene that was left on the Ned’s Head cutting room floor, I was filmed examining the inquest files for the individuals hung before and after Kelly at Melbourne Gaol. Both of these files contained the same type of information as the Kelly inquest and none of them contained any post mortem documentation. It was standard practice for post mortem details to be included in inquest files if this had been conducted.
- VPRS 676/P0, unit 25, Register of Letters and Memos Sent (Outward Correspondence) (VA 724 Victoria Police) and VPRS 676/P0, unit 72, Memorandum Books (VA 724 Victoria Police), pages 389 and 408
These are the police records located by researcher Helen Harris which document enquiries refuting country newspaper reports that Kelly's body was subject to an autopsy by medical students after his execution.
- VPRS 16631/P1, Returns of Criminals Executed in Victoria and Prisoners Sentenced to Death Whose Sentence Has Been Commuted, unit 1 (VA 4147 Melbourne Gaol).
This is the volume I received from a member of the public and which had been held in private hands for nearly 40 years. It appears to be the only known record that establishes that Kelly was buried at the [Old] Melbourne Gaol. The record has undergone conservation work since its receipt.
- File 29/W 4499 in VPRS 3992/P0, unit 1858 Inward Registered Correspondence III (VA 475 Chief Secretary's Department).
This file documents the events of 1929 when the bodies buried at the Old Melbourne Gaol, and assumed to have been turned to dust owing to their burial in limestone, were exhumed during demolition works.