Reverend Cusack RussellA cottage, Wando Vale

The Vern McCallum Photo Collection

Photos of the Western District of Victoria, Australia, from 1860



Contact Vern on 0438 371 282 to arrange viewing of Exhibition.

Our exhibition at the Castle at Allestree on the Princess Highway, opposite the Bolwarra turn off 10 km east of Portland is now not open at regular times. However, you can phone Vern on 0438 371 282 to arrange a viewing.

All 17,000 photos in the Collection will be viewable either in the 1,000 mounted prints or in printed catalogs or as high quality computer images. We believe this is the biggest exhibition of Historic Photos ever displayed in the country. It includes approximately one hundred photos taken by Thomas Hannay in 1859, only 25 years after the Hentys settled at Portland Bay. Hannay travelled from Geelong to Portland and on to Sandford and his photos are a unique record. Copies of all photos in the Collection are available for purchase at the exhibition.

Admission is $ 10.00 per adult, $ 5.00 per child.

The ABC's Colleen Hughson televised a four minute interview with Vern, during which he talks about how the Collection came about and what it means to him and to many others. You can see the interview at:

The Standard's Journalist Jenny McLaren found out about Vern's expansive collection at: and

You can watch "The Vern McCallum Collection" video on Facebook at

In March 2017 the Hamilton Spectator recognised the relevance of the Collection by running a two page spread. You can see both page 1 and page 2 here (in Adobe Acrobat PDF format), courtesy of the Spec.

About the Collection

Strangely, the Collection contains almost no photographs! For more than 40 years the residents of the Western District, and beyond, have allowed Vern McCallum to copy their personal photographs and negatives, mementos, and associated information: the originals stay with the owners. The Collection now has a vast number - more than 17,500 – of high quality images held as computer files.

By keeping only copies, the Collection has gained access to a range of information that is largely inaccessible to institutions that only accept originals. Owners of the originals know Vern and are happy to share with the Collection.

When families do donate originals of particular significance, our policy is to make copies for the Collection then place the originals in appropriate museums or libraries.

We then make the Collection available to the Western District community through activities such as mounting displays of photos at various events, providing images for the history sections of local newspapers, and distributing prints to aged care homes. Our first display was of about 50 local and family photos in a tent at the 1970 Merino Show where some of the other show people complained that Vern wasn’t a member of the showmans guild.

Except for the very large - and very expensive to produce - exhibition described above, we have not charged for displays. We see them as “giving and getting” activities: the Collection gives the community access to a huge resource for local history and in return the community gives the Collection access to personal photos and knowledge that would otherwise be visible to only a limited number of family members – or, sometimes, lost altogether.

Our Activities

In February 2016 the Collection put on its display at the Wood Wine and Roses Festival in Heywood which has been an annual event for the past fifteen years or so. We use different photos each year from Heywood, Bessiebelle, Digby, Merino and Portland. Many people passed through the Promoting Heywood Committee’s shed to view the display. Putting the Collection in front of both Shire residents and tourists both promotes the Western District and helps locate more photos and information for the Collection.

We have an ongoing commitment to the local retirement homes, where we supply laminated photos 400mm wide with a laminated caption attached in a box of approximately 100 photos. They are delivered to the old folk’s homes, left for approximately two months then swapped for another box. The residents enjoy looking at the old photos and delight in updating the captions. Feedback from the staff at the homes is very positive and they all want to see this service continue.

The Heywood Rural Care Residential Aged Care Facility, Coleraine Valley View Nursing Home, and BUPA in Wellington Road in Portland currently receive this service. We have produced over 1000 laminated photos for this activity. They cost around $40.00 per photo so we hope that some funding can be found to help with this important activity that provides residents with an ongoing interest.

Unfortunately the retirement program is now in danger: two boxes of photos - worth several thousand dollars - have gone astray. If you can help locate these photos, please see the Contact Us page and contact Vern.

In November 2015 we displayed approximately 400 photos at the Portland Powerhouse Motor & Car Museum Open Day. This was also well received and showed just how much interest there is in the collection. Again, more photos were located and information gathered.

On the second weekend in November 2015 we were at the 20th annual Old Time Wood Days at Milltown. This weekend, put on by Andrew and Christine Duyvestyn, raised over $25,000 for cancer research, Kids with Cancer @ RCH.

Other Users of the Collection

The Glenelg Shire Council used several of our photos in the Glenelg Library’s Historic Treasures section of their new web site.

The early photos are also useful to the Council or private residents who are applying for planning permits and have to demonstrate that the land has been previously been disturbed.

Environmental researchers have used the photos to see the past conditions of the landscape and vegetation. Because the earliest photos in the Collection date from the 1850s, information is available from almost the earliest times of European settlement in the District.

The 1889 gun emplacement on Battery Point, Portland, is being considered for restoration as a tourist attraction. We were able to find aerial photos from 60 years ago which allowed accurate plans to be made up to help preserve the historical significance of the area.

The Merino Progress Association used photos from the collection when making a street walk around the township. The walk encourages tourism by showing what was there in the early history of Merino.

Every week the Collection provides photos to the Casterton News and the Portland Observer for use in their history sections.  This has raised awareness amongst the Shire residents of the value of photos in preserving our local history. As a result, the Collection has been able to add more photos and information.

Garry Kerr makes use of the Collection when making his historical DVDs about many subjects in the district. He interviews the older folk in the area then combines them with photos from the Collection to create DVDs that run for about 80 minutes. Garry has completed some 13 DVDs about the Glenelg Shire area including “Construction of Portland Harbour”, “How the West was won a history of land clearing in the Glenelg Shire”, “Cattle Stories and Bush Yarns”, “Dairy Farming, hundred years of change”, “Bothies” (Borthwicks), “Heywood Cheese Factory”, “Stringy-Bark” Stories of timber getting in Victoria’s Far South-West, and “The Women’s Story”. He is working on two more and has plans for a third about the red gum saw milling industry. The Collection is very pleased to be part of this method of preserving and presenting our history, much of which would have been lost had Garry not recorded the interviews for future generations.


Woman in car with children The hall, Harrow Main street, Casterton Gordon Goodes in Don Woodstoke's Model T Ford The homestead, Wando Vale

site updated:18th March 2018