Ned Kelly, the notorious “bushranger”, in his armour facing the bullets of the police is an iconic image of Australian rebellion against a corrupt establishment in the 19th Century
Kelly, was the son of poor Irish Catholics who became involved in petty crime including horse and cattle theft which led to a spell in jail. . After an incident at his family’s home in 1878,where a police officer was shot Ned along with one of his brother and a couple of his friends went on the run. They were pursued by police and an altercation led to 3 officers being shot. Following this the Victorian government issued a proclamation of outlawry and offered rewards of £500 for each of the gang, alive or dead.
The gang became notorious for avoiding capture and for a series of daring bank raids
They were eventually cornered by the police in the small ton of Glenrowan, where they were planning to rob a train, on 28 June 1880. Kelly and his gang dressed in homemade plate metal armour and a helmet came out shooting but the police shot at their legs which were unprotected and Ned was captured. He was convicted of three counts of wilful murder and hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880.
Numerous films have been made about the anti-hero and his story features in a novel by the Australian authour, Peter Carey – The True History of the Kelly Gang.
Today his armour is displayed in the State Library of Victoria as part of a permanent exhibition about the bushranger
A copy of his death mask is also included in the exhibition
The library have other free exhibitions on the Changing Face of Victoria and Mirror of the World : books and ideas as well as some paid exhibitions.
The building itself is very impressive, especially the massive domed round reading room