Little Lon Collection




Museum Victoria's 'Little Lon' collection comprises artefacts from four archaeological excavations of the Commonwealth Block area, in inner-city Melbourne: Little Lon (1987-1988), Black Eagle & Oddfellows Hotels (1991), 17 Casselden Place (1995), and Casselden Place (2002-2003). These four digs, along with the Phase 3 Testing (2001) which Museum Victoria holds no artefacts from, produced over 500,000 artefacts which provide fascinating insights into the people who lived and worked in Melbourne in the latter part of the 19th century.

The Commonwealth Block area is bounded by Lonsdale, Exhibition, Little Lonsdale and Spring Streets in central Melbourne. During the mid to late-nineteenth century, it developed as a working class district, with simple houses, cottage industries and small scale businesses. The area was often regarded as a slum, occupied by criminals, prostitutes and the poor; however archaeological research on the nineteenth-century occupation of the site suggests a more complex history with at least some long term occupants seeking a respectable life. Towards the end of the century many ethnic minority groups were moving into the area and operating businesses, and the early twentieth century saw the construction of a number of small factories. In 1948 the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquired the land. The homes and factories that populated the back streets and lanes were demolished, and a large government office block was built in the south-east corner. Ahead of a tidal wave of further commercial development, an archaeological investigation of the area was commissioned by The Department of Administrative Services and Telecom Australia; this investigation resulted in the establishment Museum Victoria's 'Little Lon' collection, named after the site of the first dig. In all, four archaeological digs have taken place in different sections of the block, between 1988 and 2003. The collection comprises some 500 000 artefacts, making it one of the largest collections in the world to document urban life in a 19th century city.The artefacts from this collection provide insights into lives of people who lived and worked in this area in the latter part of the 19th century. Archaeologists found magnums that once held the best French champagne; marbles, toy tea sets, dolls and other children's toys; Chinese ceramics, willow pattern plates, Crimean War souvenirs, tokens and coins. They discovered that residents purchased homeopathic pain killers, patent medicines and laxatives, ate cheap cuts of mutton and oysters by the dozen, and that the area was infested with rats. Archaeologists and historians continue to analyse the distribution and stratigraphy of objects, to discover more about the people who lived in the district.

Please direct access requests via Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre


1850-1900; Animal Products; Archaeological sites; Archaeology; Bones; Bottles; Butchering; Ceramics; Children's Play; Chinaware; Domestic life; Food & Drink Consumption; Food Containers; Food Storage & Preservation; Games; Glassware; Household Sanitation; Housing; Porcelain; Pottery; Silverware; Smoking Accessories; Social Life; Tableware

Coverage Spatial

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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2012-05-30 23:42

2011-03-31 18:32