Old Treasury Building

Sitting at the top end of Collins Street in the Melbourne CBD, the Old Treasury Building is widely regarded as one of the finest 19th century buildings in Australia.

The Old Treasury building was designed by nineteen-year-old architect JJ Clark and built between 1858 and 1862.

What can I see?

The Old Treasury Building hosts the original gold vaults where gold bullion was stored during the gold rush era, as well as rare and historic documents from Public Record Office Victoria highlighting key moments from Victoria’s history.

Come and explore the intriguing gold vaults and you may earn yourself a gold licence!

Open Sunday to Friday (closed every Saturday), Free entry
(schools and groups by appointment ONLY)


Behind the Lines 2016

Top hat crowns and daggers: what is your political destiny?

In 2016 a sense of destiny seemed to reshape the broad contours of the political landscape both in Australia and abroad. It was a double-dissolution year, the Olympics were on in Rio and there was a census. There had never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s calibrated actions shaped the final months of the 44th parliament and would decisively influence the makeup of the 45th. Whilst, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten positioned his team for a make-or-break showdown. Around the world, the United States was in for a polarising presidential election, while Britain pondered its future.
All three countries had a date with destiny. And with the many tumultuous events it was another rich year for our nations cartoonists, who continued our vibrant, fearless tradition of political cartooning. Each year these cartoons bring home to us that their voices are ours, capturing the spirit of our democracy in all its passion, scepticism and above all, humour.

Behind the Lines 2016 is a travelling exhibition from the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, proudly supported by the National Collection Institutions Touring and Outreach program. An Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians


Melbourne’s history on display- new exhibitions at the Old Treasury Building

Did you know that the first attempt to settle Melbourne was in 1803? Or that Melbourne was the first capital city of Australia? New displays at the Old Treasury Building trace the growth of Melbourne, from the earliest European settlements, to Federation, when Melbourne became the interim capital city of the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia.

Melbourne: Foundations of a City

From fledgling village to bustling metropolis within a generation, this is the story of the astonishing growth of Melbourne, now told in a new exhibition at the Old Treasury Building. Dramatic panoramic pictures of the city from the 1840s to 1900, trace the extraordinary emergence of a city, that was known by the 1880s as the ‘Queen City of the South’. 
When a visiting English journalist coined the phrase ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, locals were delighted. To outsiders Melbourne seemed like a modern wonder. With its wide boulevards of gracious buildings, its cable trams, coffee palaces and dance halls, Melbourne was the premier city in Australia. But of course there was a downside as well. The creation of Melbourne rested on the dispossession and systematic exclusion of the local
Aboriginal people.  And the environment suffered too. Despite its glittering outward appearances, Melbourne was a dangerous city. The drains stank, the water was polluted and typhoid fever was rife, taking a fearful toll on young and old. Until a deep sewerage system was finally completed in 1898, ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ was also popularly known as ‘Marvellous Smellbourne’.

But for all that, Melbourne was the wonder of the age. This new exhibition at the Old Treasury Building shows us why. 

New display!

Melbourne as National Capital

In 1901 the six independent colonies of Australia united to form the Commonwealth of Australia.

The first Federal Parliament was sworn in at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. But there was, as yet, no capital city. Until one could be agreed upon, Australia was governed from Melbourne.

This was a period of great optimism and social experimentation. Legislation passed in these years defined Australia throughout the twentieth century.  Women’s franchise, aged and invalid pensions, an Arbitration Court to settle industrial disputes, a minimum wage (for men) and a maternity allowance, were all introduced before the First World War. Sadly so was the Immigration Restriction Act, better known as the White Australia Policy.

This was also a time of great technological advancement. Electricity, the motor car, the first sky scrapers and pneumatic lifts transformed Melbourne in these years. And two lasting icons of Melbourne were built – Flinders Street Station and Luna Park. Both have stood the test of time.

 FREE floor talk program available here.

Dangerously Suspicious, ST Gill. Courtesy State Library Victoria.

Wild Colonial Boys: Bushrangers in Victoria

Colonial Robin Hoods or murderous thugs? Discover new stories of Victoria’s bushrangers

If you thought you knew all about Victoria’s bushrangers, think again. There’s far more to it than the story of Ned Kelly.

This exhibition will reveal the long history of bushranging in Victoria, with some new and little-known characters from our frontier past. Meet the first bushrangers convicted in 1842 who were tried and executed publicly as an example to others. And the audacious gang who held up travellers on St Kilda Road in the 1850s. Visitors can also meet the oldest bushranger, and the youngest – John (Jack) Doolan, who inspired part of the well-known bushranging song The Wild Colonial Boy. The Kelly Gang will be there too of course. There’s no story of bushranging without Ned!

Were they indeed nineteenth century ‘Robin Hoods’ – or just common criminals? We’ll leave you to judge.

Paintings of Early Melbourne

'Evening on the Yarra, Melbourne', Watercolour by Henry Easom Davies, c. 1856

Join us for an exclusive tour of this fascinating collection of Early Melbourne paintings. Drawn from the private collection of the Roy Morgan Research Centre, this unique display of oil paintings, watercolours and lithographs provides an insiders glimpse into the early beginnings of colonial Melbourne, from swamp town to the opulence and wealth of the gold rush era. Along your tour, notice our incredible architectural interior features and unique collection of 19th century furniture, all original and purpose-built for the building in the 1860s. 

Monday 10 July at 11am
Friday 18 August at 11am
or by appointment.

Bookings essential:
Cost: $8 Adults
Bookings: 9651 2233 or bookings@otb.org.au

Victorian Display

The Deakin Room currently holds a display of Bendigo, and Victorian Art Pottery, kindly on loan from the Roy Morgan Research Centre Collection.

Bendigo Pottery
George Duncan Guthrie (1828-1910), a Scottish Potter, left Scotland to travel to Australia to join the gold rush of the 1850’s. Guthrie arrived penniless, and found no luck in the goldfields; however, he did find a deposit of fine white clay and set up Australia’s most illustrious Pottery works at Huntley, Bendigo in 1857. The Pottery continued business until its closure in 1861. In 1863, Guthrie established a pottery at Epsom, which he later sold in 1882. In 1898 Guthrie entered into a partnership with Mr Edwin J. Hartley and re-purchased the Bendigo Pottery, which he ran almost until his death in 1910.

Victorian Art Pottery
William Ferry 1887-1910, worked at the Linthorpe Art Pottery, in Middlesbrough, England, where he worked under the designer Christopher Dresser. William and his elder brother Graham were the principle sculptors for Christopher Dresser and also with Burmantoff’s Pottery, where he later became manager. In 1894 he moved to France and worked at the Niderville Pottery until 1896, when he moved to Australia. By 1898, he leased land in Brunswick, Melbourne, where under the name of Victorian Art Pottery he produced hand finished art wares, often using moulds he had brought from England. He gained a reputation for his beautifully made, colourful and decorative Jardinières, Pedestals and Grotesques. The works closed in 1912.