The record for this image of the Black Cat cafe on Brunswick St does not specify an accurate creation date, so can anyone identify it based on the interior? According to Museum Victoria, it holds a collection of over 250 items related to the history of the Black Cat, which opened in 1982, closed in 2001, and reopened soon after. It continues to be a popular cafe and bar today.

blackcat Fitzroy history - the Black Cat cafe

Courtesy of SLV / ID: H2009.52/224 / photographer: Phillip Rogers / copyright: used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 / c1970-1996

blackcathistory Fitzroy history - the Black Cat cafe

I emailed the Museum on 22 August asking if items from the Black Cat collection have been digitised and if any of it is accessible. I have not received a response. Typical inept government bureaucracy.

It was with some bemusement therefore to see the Museum tweeting about my previous post about the history of the butcher’s shop on Brunswick St that is now Largo, which used images from their collection.

Having a social media strategy does not compensate for failing to acknowledge and respond to correspondence. What’s the point of trying to engage with your audience when you ignore them when they try to engage with you?

Fitzroy history – the Black Cat cafe

5 thoughts on “Fitzroy history – the Black Cat cafe

  • 25 September 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I like that image. It almost looks like the same flooring, only faded now. Museums are painful to deal with almost anywhere, I had some ridiculous back and forth with the V&A in London over images I wanted to publish, often a month between emails. Others are much better, the British Museum is making an effort to put its collection online where it can be freely downloaded and freely used for almost any not-for-profit publishing.
    I haven’t really had dealings with the Melbourne Museum but it does not surprise me that they seem to have no strategy in place for dealing with people who want to view their collection not on ready display.

  • 9 February 2011 at 11:19 pm

    After living in Fitzroy for around ten years during the nineties, I frequented The Black Cat most mornings for my sabatitical coffee to cure a post eve hangover. The scene in the front door is very familiar. The decor to is familar. The date is not but I would say late eighties to early nineties. The cafe had changed hands by the late nineties and alcohol was served with more frequency. I still remember the classic picture of James Brown and cute staff hanging from the walls. Long live The Black Cats soy banana smoothie circa 1993….

  • 21 June 2011 at 7:20 am

    Saw ‘Essendon Airport’ upstairs in ’81 or ’82. Good memories.

  • 14 December 2012 at 4:36 pm

    If your still trying to work out the date of the B/W image above it was taken in approx 1991. I frequented the cafe once or twice every day from October 1987 until 2001 with some periodic times when I lived abroad or interstate. Returning to Melbourne in October 1994 the espresso machine pictured had been replaced with a newer model and the large flower arrangement, the creation of Benny who died in mid 1996, were displayed from about 1989 until the mid 90s. The big metal lettering on the wall: BRUNSWICK which had near it painted onto the wall “st”, not visable in the photo was installed in 1991 or possible as early as late 1990. As a photography student I took many photos in the cafe, as well made many detailed drawings of the cafe interior. Henry Maas actually acquired some of these in about 1990. While I was unaware of the 2010 Museum Victoria acquisitions I could have donated photos taken from 1988 – 1996, the period I frequented the cafe and before the interior was renovated.

    I have at least 25 films shot of the cafe interior / exterior from that period. I will soon put some up onto my blog site under Black Cat Cafe as I’m constantly being badgered to do so from old friends. Hope that I’ve been of some assistance.

    Sean D.

  • 20 April 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I started frequenting the Black Cat shortly after it opened. It was cheap, it was grimy and it was a dive and I loved it. I was a music student at the time and they always played cool jazz. I remember Saturdays in Fitzroy consisted of coffee and a bagel burger at the Black Cat followed by a short walk to the Tankerville Arms to see Vince Jones (free entry after 10:00). I spent a lot of Saturdays this way.

    There was a big black and white tom cat that use to come in and make himself at home on the bar or at any table he pleased. He had one eye, half an ear and a mangled paw and he was as tough as an alley cat could be.


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