The State Library of Victoria is a splendid example of Victorian architecture, and houses the state’s largest public research and reference library. The interior has been painstakingly refurbished and is well worth a visit, in particular the Cowen Gallery with a permanent display of paintings illustrating the changing look of Melbourne and Victoria; the La Trobe Reading Room with its imposing domed roof; and the Dome Galleries, which vividly tell the history of Victoria. The library houses a trove of paintings and rare and antiquarian books and newspapers, along with the deed of land purchase by John Batman from the Dugitalla Aborigines, Ned Kelly’s armour, and the famous rage-filled Jerilderie letter, which inspired Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel The True History of the Kelly Gang. There’s also a branch of the excellent Readings bookshop, and a Chess Collection; with almost 12,000 chess-related items it is reputedly one of the largest public collections in the world.
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