With the arrival of the excellent “NED:THE EXHIBITION” at The Old Melbourne Gaol in Russell St., I thought now was a good time to briefly look at the other major Kelly exhibition in recent years.


     MEN of IRON                    

Ned Kelly, Dan, Joe and Steve's




   8th October 1998 – 31st January 1999



The above lay-out is how the catalogue for the 1998 “Men of Iron” exhibition presented its front page. The exhibition was open from 9.30am to 4.30pm daily and was sponsored by the State Library, Herald Sun, Click showcase systems and the Victoria Police.


“Ned Kellys armour is one of the most widely recognized Australian icons. It has been the dream of many an institution to bring all four suits of armour together for public display but this has rarely been achieved. The last occasion all four suits of armour were exhibited was at the Old Melbourne Gaol in the 1970’s.”



“The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the La Trobe picture collection, State Library of Victoria, in lending Steve Harts armour and of the Victoria Police, Police Historical Unit for the loan of Dan Kellys armour. The staff at both institutions have been particularly helpful with this project. Thanks are also due to the private owner of Joe Byrnes armour who has been supportive and patient throughout the whole exhibition planning process.”




As you can see from the above quotation, even as recently as 1998, the suits of armour were being incorrectly identified. The four suits were exhibited on the main floor of the Old Melbourne Gaol in sets of two @ right angles to each other. The suits were individually, sensitively and crisply displayed in black “Click”showcases with room to move @ the rear, so viewer could inspect the suits from all angles. Back then, the National Trust suit was identified as that worn by Ned Kelly and the State Library suit was labelled as Steve Harts. Using identification from the day then, Ned and Dans armour stood almost under the gallows, whilst Steve and Joes armour faced the viewer as they walked down the main cell block from Russell St.


It was the first time the armour had been exhibited so well with subdued,modern lighting and an empathy with the surroundings.                  


Behind the suits, there was a small collection of etchings by Sidney Nolan, all dealing with the helmeted image of Kelly. The Death Mask, also well lit, was displayed prominently in proximity to the four suits as were several authentic Kelly firearms.


This was the first time I had seen all four suits together so it obviously made a great impression on me. Please refer to “Kelly Relics”section for current identification of all four suits. It was also the first time I met Ian Jones, renowned television producer and Kelly student, who during an excellent presentation on the armour,expressed his hope of all suits being pieced together and correctly identified. Thanks to events such as Ned:The Exhibition, this finally looks like coming to fruition.Whoo Hoo!!!!



Of course, throughout the years, the Kelly museums in North East Victoria have been a permanent source of knowledge for the visitor. While not as meticulous in terms of lay-out, there is something delightfully serendipitous about them and are no less enjoyable to visit.