The first phase of this project has been the digitisation of volumes from 1857 to 1880, which enables directory data to be more openly accessible as an eMelbourne resource, and to inform other MHW projects including Block 11.
The University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library holds copies of Melbourne directories published first as Sands & Kenny’s directory (1857-59), then Sands, Kenny & Co.’s directory (1860-61) and finally as the Sands & McDougall’s directory. Information in directories reflects the expansion of the metropolis and development of its social and commercial life. There are three fundamental types of information in the directories: alphabetical listing of surnames; property-by-property and street-by street listing across Melbourne’s suburb; and trade and professional listings. In his entry in the Encyclopedia of Melbourne, John Lack notes both their value as a vital historical mine of information, and more specifically their utility for historians and social scientists, a utility that is yet to be fully realised due to the inability of researchers to access and review the information contained therein with more up-to-date and sophisticated tools of digital analysis:
There is simply nothing to match these directories for their reliability, comprehensive coverage, and continuity of publication…Melbourne’s directories have become of inestimable value to social scientists and historians, especially given the destruction of Victorian manuscript schedules, the absence of 19th-century voters’ rolls, and the difficulty of using municipal valuation books, rate books and voter lists.