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Memento : Issue 30
Dr Nicole Moore is one of two inaugural Margaret George Fellows at the National Archives in 2005. Her research on the records of federal censorship began two years ago, with a particular interest in the banning of Australian literature. the largest challenge of Dr moore's fellowship at the archives has been coming to grips with the sheer size and complexity of australian censorship regimes. her research is only the beginning of a much needed survey of this widely discussed but under- researched subject. aided by enthusiastic archives’ staff, she is very excited to be unearthing large numbers of files relating to censorship. Dr moore recounts some of her discoveries. At the beginning of my fellowship, one of the reference staff at the Archives relayed the following anecdote about first-time users of archived files. First-timers tend to arrive in a burst of curiosity and enthusiasm. They order up files and impatiently await their delivery. When the files arrive, the user appears somewhat taken aback by the volume of material in front of them. The first folder is opened with eager anticipation and An indecent obsession Spring–Summer 2005 memeNto 13 government agencies in more than 67 different files series, some of which take up 150 or 200 metres of shelf space – this is the daunting extent of the records relating to federal censorship in Australia. And no matter how much research I do into the processes and contexts of governmental censorship beyond the files, this experience continues to be repeated, as I confront the complex organisation and sheer volume of material left behind by assiduous clerks and officials. The other side of that experience, however, consists of surprise discoveries and revelation. The records relating to censorship held by the user begins to read. An hour passes. The yellowed pages flip over, memo succeeds memo, list succeeds list, letters follow each other in interminable series and detail, dates merge, indecipherable signatures and obscure references build and multiply. Two more hours pass. The pile of folders grows only indiscernibly smaller. At the end of three hours the new user’s manner is altogether different. Dazed and overwhelmed, the user stares off into middle distance wondering how to negotiate this vast new landscape. The past before them appears not only to be another country, but one without maps or signposts. The user sighs, blinks back anxiety and gradually begins to understand. Slowly, they begin an enthralling journey of discovery, one that piece by piece gathers speed as each clue is uncovered and the puzzle starts to come together. Or so goes the story. This was certainly my experience when faced with the papers of 14 different NAA: A425, 1956/5842 (left) Protest letter in defence of Robert Close, 21 April 1948. NAA: T318/1/1 (centre) Detail from the poster ‘Venereal Disease is a Killer’, from the Archives’ copyright collection. NAA: A1861, 7084 (1943) (right) This familiar title was an obvious target for the censors. Cover of Playboy, November 1970. NAA: C3059/4, Box 18