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Memento : Issue 17
may 2001 memento 5 when you consider the size of our population and the fact that the Commonwealth government has existed for only 100 years. In 1998, we held about 250,000 shelf metres of archival records, compared to 577,000 metres held by the National Archives and Records Administration in the USA and 167,000 metres held by the Public Record Office in London. At the same time, the buildings holding these records are getting older and more expensive to maintain. We decided we needed to reduce the size of the haystack to make the needle easier to find, without throwing out the needles with the hay. To do this we are reviewing our collection to ensure we have kept the right records, and we are using new approaches to appraisal to make sure we collect the right records in the future. And we are moving house. In almost every State and Territory we’re relocating to more appropriate buildings closer to the city. We’re refining our collection so we only keep the records that are needed, and we’re rehousing them in better facilities. For researchers, this is good news. It means that the collection will be more accessible, better maintained and more fine-tuned to their research needs. We’re also looking to the future and starting to make our records available online. Researchers can already search our databases and view historic documents and photographs on our website. Every day we are scanning more records to add to our databases. Of course, it’s important to know where and when we are moving. The first move will be in July in Adelaide, where we are moving from Collinswood to a building on the corner of Angas Street and Chancery Lane in the central business district. From the reading room, researchers will be able to access some 3000 shelf metres of records. These are records that relate directly to South Australia, records most used by researchers in Adelaide, and those assessed as most likely to be used in the future. What happens to the records we cull from our repositories? Some, such as meteorology records, are being returned to the agency that created them. Records with a broad national interest, such as personal records of Ministers and World War I pay files, are being moved to Canberra. Only records assessed as having no archival value are destroyed and this process is conducted by our professional archivists following stringent criteria and procedures. In Darwin, we plan to move to a new central location later this year. We expect to relocate in Hobart and Brisbane in 2002, and Perth in 2004. And so the future of Archives research looks very rosy indeed – a collection that is more accessible, easier to search and in better shape for all Australians to see! move ‘ My six weeks with the Archives were challenging and rewarding. Thanks to all who made the time so enjoyable!’ Our first summer scholars, Kate Fielding and Peter Roberts, made some fascinating discoveries during their six weeks at the Archives. Prime Ministers’ wives – Peter Roberts ‘ What struck me most was the level of community involvement of Prime Ministers’ wives. ‘ Enid Lyons’ and Elsie Curtin’s personal files contain hundreds of letters asking them to become patron or vice-president of numerous charitable organisations. Seemingly regarded as a conduit to their husbands, both received letters asking for assistance or offering advice, obviously meant for the Prime Minister. ‘ It appears that the ordinary Australian of the 1930s–40s felt much more at ease writing to the Prime Minister’s wife than the Prime Minister.’ Kate majored in history, creative writing and visual arts (photography) at the University of Melbourne. Her passion is Australian local history, particularly that of south-west Victoria. Peter is an honours history student at Southern Cross University. Father of three, grandfather of two, Peter has had many occupations, from labourer to debt collector. His history interests are mainly in indigenous–settler relationships in his local area, Lismore.