Velvet, Iron, Ashes

SLV Velvet, Iron, Ashes - photo by Patrick RodriguezExploring the surprising connections between some of Victoria’s greatest stories, State Library Victoria presents a major new exhibition, Velvet, Iron, Ashes, on display in the new Victoria Gallery from 24 October 2019.

The free, interactive exhibition draws on the experience of using a library to offer a new way of discovering Victoria’s history. Visitors will become their own detectives as they learn about the unexpected links between some of the state’s most influential people, events and icons including Ned Kelly, the Ashes Urn, Freddo Frog, Yallourn Power Station and even Nappie Wash.

Velvet, Iron, Ashes is the first-ever exhibition in the Library’s brand new Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, and established as part of the Library’s $88.1 million Vision 2020 redevelopment.

President of the Library Board of Victoria and a Director of the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, John Wylie AM, said the opening of the Library’s most ambitious exhibition marked an exciting moment in the transformation of Australia’s oldest and busiest public library.

“Victoria Gallery is setting a global benchmark in library exhibitions and Velvet, Iron, Ashes is proof that the Library offers so much more than just books,” said Mr Wylie. “Visitors will be delighted to discover many paintings, maps, photographs, costumes and armour all on display in this wonderful free exhibition.”

“Of course, we are also excited that the Ashes Urn will soon return to Victoria to star exclusively in Velvet, Iron, Ashes – a fitting way to celebrate our Australian cricketers’ great achievement in retaining the Ashes in England.”

“What makes this exhibition so special is that it encourages visitors of all ages and backgrounds to explore the stories behind the extraordinary people, events and icons that have shaped our great state – in surprisingly connected ways,” said Mr Wylie.

Velvet, Iron, Ashes opens up a new way of seeing our history and reveals as never before how our stories intersect. Find out how the armour of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly is connected to cricket’s celebrated Ashes Urn, how fairy floss is connected to Victoria’s Latrobe Valley electricity industry, and why the granddaughter of one of our prime ministers once wore a glittering velvet cloak that symbolised the Murray–Darling irrigation scheme.

The exhibition will showcase more than 200 items from the Library’s vast collection and from other major institutions and private collections. Highlight pieces include Ned Kelly’s armour, a glittering costume designed to represent modern Victoria in 1934 and the Ashes Urn – which is being exclusively loaned from Marylebone Cricket Club in London and displayed from 26 November 2019 until 23 February 2020.

Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, is a brand new world-class exhibition space at State Library Victoria. It has been designed by multi-award winning Australasian firm, Architectus and one of Scandinavia’s most recognised architectural practices, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

Victoria Gallery occupies a 500-square-metre grand heritage space that originally opened in 1892 as the home of National Gallery of Victoria (until 1968). It subsequently housed Melbourne Museum’s ethnographic collection (until 1998 – 99) and then served as a workspace for librarians.

Now, the original architecture has been carefully restored to create a home for the Library’s great treasures, telling the stories of the state of Victoria over the past 180 years. It opens as part of the Library’s Vision 2020 redevelopment, an ambitious project that will transform the Library’s incomparable heritage spaces, creating destinations for myriad purposes and enabling the Library to offer a range of new services.

Velvet, Iron, Ashes
Victoria Gallery – State Library Victoria, Corner Russell and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne
Exhibition: 24 October 2019 – 12 July 2020
Free admission

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Velvet, Iron, Ashes (Installation View) – photo by Patrick Rodriguez