Painted (ghost) signs in Port Phillip

A community conservation project in the City of Port Phillip

Help preserve our local cultural heritage
The mercantile history of the City of Port Phillip is captured in an estimated 400 historic painted (ghost) signs on exteriors of private and commercial buildings throughout the municipality.

To locate, document, interpret and ensure continued access to our significant painted signs, the City of Port Phillip partnered with heritage specialists, community members and groups, and staff and students from The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) of the University of Melbourne.

In 2014 and 2015 the locations, dimensions and conditions of thirty-two signs were recorded and data uploaded to the Emerald Hill Heritage Centre’s Historypin page.  The sites included in the project are listed here.

With the help of the community, we aim to locate and document more signs.

If you find a ghost sign that is not currently listed on the Emerald Hill Heritage Centre’s Historypin page:

  1. Take a high-resolution photograph of the sign.
  2. Complete the Painted sign form below to note details of the location, condition, significance and other information related to the sign and its associated structure.
  3. E-mail art& attaching the high-resolution image and completed form so that the data can be collected and uploaded onto Historypin.

If you notice that the condition or state of a sign has changed (ie the sign has been vandalised, the paint layer has deteriorated, painted over or the supporting wall destroyed) in comparison to the image on Historypin, then please follow the same steps as above. For more details on the terms used in the Painted sign form, please click on the Glossary below.


Painted sign form


More on the project

Painted (ghost) signs are links to our past. However, the cultural history embedded in these signs are at risk of loss due to the physical and chemical deterioration of the sign’s paint layers and supporting surfaces. In 2014 and 2015, the City of Port Phillip partnered with heritage specialists, local community members and staff and students from the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne to begin to address the conservation issues related to ghost signs in the municipality. The result of the collaboration was the establishment of the ‘Community conservation project: Painted (ghost) signs in the City of Port Phillip’. The project provides the community with tools to document and interpret painted signs alongside conservation and heritage specialists with the aim of using this data to implement long-term preservation strategies.

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