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Memento : Issue 27
The website will include online copies of key publications, many of them now out of print or difficult to find. Each one will be linked to a landmark event, documenting the development of our professional thinking about archives and our expanding role in keeping valuable government records and making them accessible to the public. Two new pieces will also appear: Simon Davis' account of the history of the National Archives' involvement in electronic records and Hilary Golder's short sequel to her book Documenting a Nation which the Archives published to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1994. You can find our new website addition Our History: The National Archives of Australia at ourhistory.naa.gov.au. Trawling through the National Archives database RecordSearch from my home in Sydney, and on two trips to the Archives in Brisbane about a year apart, I searched on all possible permutations of her name. The searches did surrender up some files, but I rejected them because the dates were completely wrong, or because they were not held in Queensland or the Northern Territory, the two places where grandma had lived. What I didn't know, and hadn't allowed for, was that when Sam Moy returned to Australia in 1950, she sailed into Sydney. Her file was in the National Archives' office in Sydney, where I live! Sam Moy Shun Wah's 16-page file contained her Document of Identity, a stack of official correspondence verifying she was who she claimed to be, and finally a letter that granted permission for her return to Australia in 1950. Still, grandma on paper didn't match the woman in my photograph. I needed to know more about her personality. I asked my relatives about her, but their replies rarely went beyond 'she worked very hard'. One distant cousin finally volunteered a photo of my grandmother as a young girl. Naturally, I begged for a copy and a few weeks later it arrived in the mail. It was a family portrait, featuring the sweet faces of Sam Moy aged about 16 and some of her brothers and sisters. In the middle of the gathering, looking straight ahead with grim determination, and strong hands that looked too big for her slight frame, was their mother -- my great-grandmother, Leung Wai Ching. There was another photograph in the package my cousin sent me. It was a portrait of great-grandmother taken many years later in Hong Kong. I took out my traditional photo of 'grandma', the one that had sent me on this quest, and placed it beside the portrait of great-grandmother. Finally I realised. My photo was not of my grandmother at all. It was of great- grandmother. My father hadn't made the mistake, I had. I'd asked him who she was, and he replied naturally, 'That's grandma'. His grandma. A mistake, a Chinese whisper, had sent me off on a quest. You can't rely on the accuracy of memories, interpretations, even formal documentation, but if you take them all together even mistakes can lead you -- eventually -- to some amazing discoveries. Marking our history Grandma's Chi nese w h ispers (continued ) Our website will soon feature a short history of the National Archives, marking significant events in our evolution. This new addition to the site will be launched in Canberra in September, to coincide with our major international workshop on Digital Preservation and the Australian Society of Archivists' annual conference. It will highlight notable 10-year signposts on our journey. 1944 -- Ian Maclean was appointed as the Commonwealth government's first Archives Officer. 1954 -- Dr TR Schellenberg, Director of Archival Management at the National Archives in Washington, visited Australia, advocating the case for a national archival organisation separate from the National Library. 1964 -- The Interdepartmental Comm- ittee on Commonwealth Archives recommended that an Archives Act be passed. 1974 -- The Lamb Report supported legislation for an Archives Act. 1984 -- The Archives Act came into effect. 1994 -- We launched the public programs initiative, making the Archives more accessible to the general public, and the Playing for Keeps conference, highlighting a key stage in our management of government electronic records. 18 MEMENTO News from the National Archives