Archival Guides and the National Archives of Australia

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This article was downloaded by: [University of Western Ontario]On: 13 November 2014, At: 18:54Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKAustralian Academic & ResearchLibrariesPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Guides and the NationalArchives of AustraliaMichael Piggott aa Archives consultant, and adjunct lecturer , Charles SturtUniversity , Wagga Wagga , 2678 E-mail:Published online: 08 Jul 2013.To cite this article: Michael Piggott (2012) Archival Guides and the National Archives of Australia,Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 43:2, 146-154, DOI: 10.1080/00048623.2012.10722267To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. 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Terms &Conditions of access and use can be found at Australian Academic & Research LibrariesMichael PiggottA series of guides published by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) is considered against the background of various definitions and examples of archival guides produced in Australia during the past sixty years. The author then discusses the range of NAA guides: in particular, its so-called research guides, including the latest, published on-line and in hard copy, which surveys Commonwealth records about the Northern Territory. The article draws comparisons with the National librarys Trove system and ends with questions about the purpose of these guides, given the NAAs overall strategy for public discovery and its other information retrieval and promotional tools. Michael Piggott. Archives consultant, and adjunct lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga 2678. Email: 1991, the then Australian Archives published Lighthouses in Australia. A guide to records held by the Australian Archives. it appeared as Subject Guide No 1. during the following twenty years, the Archives and its successor, the National Archives of Australia (NAA), produced an impressive number of guides on particular subjects, themes and events. Now called research guides, their subjects almost defy generalisation. There have also been guides to archives about individual Australian prime ministers and relations between them. Since the late 1990s, NAA has included within its research guides list a sub-theme concentrating on either the holdings of a particular state office or its holdings about a particular state or territory. The first of these was Celia blakes Collections in Melbourne. A guide to Commonwealth Government records and the latest is Ted lings ArChiVAl GuidES ANd ThE NATiONAl ArChiVES OF AuSTrAliADownloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 June 2012 147Volume 43 Number 2Michael PiggottCommonwealth Government records about the Northern Territory . The author is currently contracted to write A guide to Commonwealth Government records about Tasmania.To begin to make proper sense of this twenty year output, we need to it is hard to resist answering that, on the evidence of the variety coming out of the Australian archives and records sector, archival guides must be pretty much any document an archive intends people to use as a guide. To the compilers of the premier Australian Society of Archivists text Keeping Archives, guides did not warrant a separate explanation, being just one of many kinds of finding aids. These, in turn, are:Tools to guide users to the information they are seeking from or about archives, to aid access. They provide additional access points to the archival collections. Types of finding aids include registers, guides, inventories and indexes and may be in hard copy or electronic form (p. 635). Guides are not addressed either in the only other relevant Australian text, Describing archives in context: A guide to Australasian practice. its authors saw finding aids as outputs of description while observing that archival institutions will choose a range of outputs that are appropriate for their business needs. The latest Society of American Archivists glossary (2005), however, does define archival guides. it too links guides to the broader term finding aids, but specifically states that guides are a broad description of the holdings at one or more archives, typically at the collection level, then mentions some of the variety including a repository guide, an inter repository guide, and guides that describe collections relating to a specific subject, often called a subject guide or a thematic guide. A third approach comes from deep inside the National library of Australias online Guide to the papers of Sir Edmund Barton. At a webpage headed About Finding Aids, we learn that librarians and archivists create a finding aid to provide information about the arrangement, content and context of an archival collection. in short, finding aids and guides are the same thing. more helpfully, however, the librarys explanation gives a sense of the structure of a guide.Such attempts to set the bounds of the thing we label archival guides remind one of efforts to nail jelly to a wall. What surely is common to guides, however, is how the axes of breadth and depth locate them. All guides incorporate specific coordinates of breadth of purview and the depth of descriptive detail. Each guide obviously has in mind a body of records it intends to guide researchers around or to excite their interest in. At the narrow end, this typically comprises a single collection, a fonds (or depending on your tradition, an archive group or record group), a record series, or set of series created by a particular traverse the predictable ground of definitions and history. WHATAREARCHIVALgUIDES?Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 148 Australian Academic & Research LibrariesArchival Guides and the National Archives of Australiaentity. At the broadest end, the guides focus spans across many of these and sometimes even across institutions, sectors, jurisdictions or international borders. They are static, predetermined answers to a presumed question. They are a ham cheese and tomato sandwich waiting to see who is interested in that preset combination, not Subway. Only some, strictly speaking, are archival. Time for some history.1950s-1970s:WHENARCHIVALgUIDESWEREARCHIVALAs with so much of the story of modern Australian archival development, the first archival guides resulted from the visit of the uS Fulbright lecturer dr T. r. Schellenberg in 1954. intending to give government archivists a project which underlined their distinctiveness as a new profession separate from librarians, as much as to address an appalling lack of access points into their core holdings, Schellenberg helped initiate work on a national multi-part Guide to Pre-Federation Archives. Within three years, the Guide as a coordinated Commonwealth-State project was abandoned, but the government archivists, though all still subject in one way or another to state libraries, gained enough from the discussions and work on instructions for the preparation of inventories to each begin compiling separate state guides.The first appeared in 1957, compiled by the legendary Tasmanian government archivist Peter Eldershaw, as the Guide to the public records of Tasmania, Section One: Colonial Secretarys Office Record Group. it and the three others in this series (on the Convict department 1965, Governors Office 1958 and Free immigration 1975) were works of considerable scholarship and archival principle. They structured their listings and descriptions of record series and selected record items to reveal the organic structure of the creating office and its recordkeeping systems, and introduced them with long essays of contextual administrative history based on the archival evidence of the very volumes and papers they were describing. Each state archives in turn produced a small number of such large, detailed scholarly guides, the quality of their content and production falling away as other pressures, such as expanding holdings and growing user numbers, built. The National and state libraries did something else, starting in 1965, to produce in quarterly supplements single sheet descriptions of accessions of personal and organisational archives held in libraries, historical societies and organisations. Known for the next thirty years as the Guide to collections of manuscripts relating to Australia, it was in effect a specialised union catalogue. Then, as the decade of the 1970s closed, Women in Australian Society, 1901-45. A guide to the holdings of Australian Archives relating to women and women in Australia: an annotated guide to records appeared. it took external funding and a pretext impossible to ignore to help bring them into being, but nothing like them had ever been seen or conceived of before: a sign of things to come.Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 June 2012 149Volume 43 Number 2Michael Piggott1980s-1990s:CENTENARIES,SUBJECTSANDTHEWEBThe guide as inventory, introduced to newly appointed government archivists facing large accumulations of dead administrations, was always only one approach to explicating a body of records. manuscripts librarians, part curator and part librarian though never quite sure what they were professionally and often having to deal with unstructured, smaller, and at times even artificial accumulations of papers, favoured the guide as descriptive list. Their scholarship was manifest in outlines of biographies rather than office histories but even more evident in deep collection knowledge deployed to assist scholars. in addition, by then the advance cohorts of public users were tapping on the reading room windows. Gradually, the curator librarians, and archivists, including government archivists more generally, began to respond with some deliberation. The bicentenary celebrations in 1988, changes in curricula and the boom in family history all played their part. Archivists themselves were a factor in this too, forming a separate organisation, pursuing formal qualifications, and producing directories and other is difficult to discern a simple pattern to archival guide production in the 80s and 90s, but there were certainly many firsts. The then Australian Archives began to shake off a defensive inward looking culture, appointing public programs staff and actually signaling to genealogists they were welcomed by producing its first published guide Relations in records. A guide to family history sources in the Australian Archives. in the 1980s too, the Australian War memorial began issuing collection guides. it started with A general guide to the library collections and archives and followed it immediately with a narrower, more intense focus with A guide to the personal family and official papers of C E W Bean. beyond Canberra, the university of melbourne Archives became the first university archives with a large formally published Guide to collections. There were others, but the trend was by now clearly evident.Aside from specific collections and the holdings of specific archives, guides in support of family history research held their popularity and, within a large range of subject interests for guides, the history and experience of indigenous Australians began to emerge as one of several popular themes for archival guides. Otherwise, one struggles to see other than variety and intelligent opportunism in the titles produced. Take, for instance, a sample of the National Archives research guides from 1990s: Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Australians in NSW; The sinking of HMAS Sydney; Papua New Guinea records 18831942; Royalty and Australian society: Records relating to the British monarchy; More people imperative: Immigration to Australia, 190139; The Boer War: Australians and the war in South Africa, 18991902; Citizenship in Australia and Good British stock; Child and youth migration to Australia. The approaching centenary of federation, like the bicentennial before it, was also a fillip, the standout guide being the National Archives Federation. The Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 150 Australian Academic & Research LibrariesA Push Technology Personal Librarian Projectguide to records. A magnificent production which appeared in print and on line, it provided, to quote its Foreword, a comprehensive list of the collections of more than 60 archives, libraries, museums and galleries, covering the broadest possible range of Federation material. Still seen today at lifeline book fairs, it symbolises all that was good about the old model of an archival guide as union catalogue.The most obvious change into the new century has seen guides to individual collections, record groups and agencies or equivalent published direct to the web, or as a minimum not an option, released on-line as well as in print. Some institutions such as the university of melbourne Archives now provide accession or collection guides as PdFs via their website. Others began providing online access to guides to record groups and record creating entities, thus for example the Guide to the University of Adelaide Archives. There has also been the most impressive example of the National library of Australias manuscripts Section, which published guides to collections of personal papers for decades, and began using the Encoded Archival description standard when producing its archival finding aids and for marking up existing printed manuscript guides. Over four hundred are now accessible in this way, via Trove, which continues to strengthen as a one-stop-shop mega guide as search interface to everything, including Australias non-government archives. Such work is encouraged across the library component of the non-government archives sector through the Archival Collections project of National and State libraries Australasia, something sadly lacking in its government equivalent. A second trend has seen the traditional 100+ page printed guide shrink to a 2-5 page mini-guide providing advice about narrow topics hyperlinked to details of items, files, specific documents and in some cases scans of the documents themselves. Some institutions still call them Guides (e.g., the Northern Territory Archives Service), but most do not, preferring terms like Fact Sheets (National Archives of Australia), Archives in Brief and Short Guides (State records Authority of NSW), Brief Guides (Tasmanian Archives and heritage Office), and PROVGuides (Public record Office Victoria).The launch in September 2000 of Picture Australia heralded a third trend, the subject gateway. Archivists contributed to some and initiated others such as the Australian Trade union Archives (ATuA). indeed, nothing better illustrated the differences between the past and the future than ATuA (for all its primitive functionality) and the prime source of its content, the static and dated Parties to the award; a guide to the pedigrees and archival resources of federally registered trade unions, employer associations and their peak councils in Australia 1904-1994. Twelve years on from the appearance of this first gateway came news earlier this year that the National library will 21STCENTURY:THEDISAPPEARINgARCHIVALgUIDE?Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 June 2012 151Volume 43 Number 2Michael Piggottbe integrating some essential Picture Australia discovery functions into Trove, and switching off its separate user interface. Clearly not the last; trove will be a verb soon enough.Though strictly out-of-scope for an article on guides, we need to note briefly the rise of an array of new online entry points to archival content, and the many related developments focussing on metadata, digitization and Web 2.0 type mechanisms. increasingly and sensibly, archives resource discovery strategies embrace and exploit the technology and expectations of the moment. Things such as google-like interfaces, use of A-Z pages, e-alerts, text repeatedly broken up with links, images, and opportunities to comment and add ones own documents or stories are the very opposite to the twentieth century archival guide. For government archives particularly, those inheritors of the grand vision of a national Guide to Pre-Federation Archives, the priority now seems to be to feed the publics apparent unquenchable thirst for detail of the many millions of items and their digitized content. how archival, efficient, complete, accurate and user-friendly are their solutions to item level discovery systems (e.g., NAAs recordSearch and the State records Authority of NSWs Archives investigator) is a question for another time. behind them, of course, sits the legacy of patient documentation of agencies series and functions, available yet largely unwanted, but also large backlogs of item level arrangement and description work and for which funding and internal champions continue to shrink. Exploring the reasons must also be deferred. Curiously, big print published archival guides still appear. From the Public record Office Victoria a few years ago came Lands Guide: a guide to finding records of Crown land at Public Record Office Victoria, and recently the ANu Archives produced Prime Ministers at the Australian National University. An archival guide (2011). That these guides were also available virtually is not the point. They illustrate a reality evident every year when the Australian Society of Archivists mander Jones awards offer a prize for the best finding aid to an archival collection held by an Australian institution or about Australia (category 3). it has never lacked entries. And as we noted at the beginning, the National Archives faith in them has never wavered. Why?NAAAgAINWhat are archival guides for? Thought of as an explication of the recordkeeping context and structure of a specific fonds, the archival guide has always held its relevance, though fewer and fewer managers in archival institutions seem to agree or understand why. One wonders how this positions digital record keepers given the coming challenges. Presumably, it will take a special kind of professional to discern content context and structure in a cloud.The archival guide thought of as a tool deliberately pre-designed with a set of uses and users in mind is, and remains something of a mystery. Averil Condren encapsulated the insight beautifully years ago:Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 152 Australian Academic & Research LibrariesArchival Guides and the National Archives of AustraliaTrollopes character The duke of Omnium has two notable features: he always says what his interlocutor wishes to hear, and will rejoice with the victor and condole with the vanquished with equal insincerity; and while he is the great dues ex machina of barsetshire he is never actually observed ever to do anything. i shall argue that the archival finding aid as a phenomenon has these characteristics in common with the duke and that they underlie many of the misconceptions about, and observed deficiencies of, the find aid (1995: 171).Take the most recent NAA guide, Ted lings Commonwealth government records about the Northern Territory. As a finding aid, the NT guide is designed to work in several ways. The physical printed guide presents structured and indexed content. its existence is knowable via online library catalogues, via web searches and, with a little work, via the NAAs website. Once in the hand, an impressive amount of information can be learnt about the political and administrative history of the Territory (chapters 1-7); about what it calls specific issues such as the environment and Territory personalities (chapters 8-17); and about more routine facts such as a timeline (appendices 1-3). This is not an administrative history of a particular series or fonds and recordkeeping systems even remotely similar to the 1950s guides, but nevertheless it offers useful background to the actual information provided and presumably sought, i.e., archival sources on a great range of subjects relating to the Northern Territory. This is provided mostly at the quite broad level of detail (the record series title), and occasionally at the next level of detail down (file volume or item title), strategically positioned at appropriate points in the text.All the NAAs research guides indicate in which of its state and territory repositories the series they list are physically stored. The NT guide, as have others and particularly the guides to prime ministers, also lists to some degree relevant record series held by another half dozen repositories with the Northern Territory Archives Service and State records of South Australia predominating. in effect, it provides federated search answers to presumed questions.Comparisons of the print with the on line version of the NT guide are intriguing. The e-guide is missing the print versions index, but its almost 300 pages of text, residing five pages into the NAA website, are searchable via a google-like interface on any of the preceding four pages but not from the guide page itself. if you overlook this oddity, you can find terms in the guide text not indexed in the print version. What is not possible are simple searches across the web which retrieve from within the content of the online guide. Patently, NAAs recordSearch and its spruikers like Fact Sheets and the research Guides are not even close to NlAs Trove. On the other hand, the online versions of the guides come into their own once on the screen in front of you, providing links from the series or item descriptions direct to recordSearch, details about availability, location, ordering, functions, and sometimes even scans of the documents themselves.Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 June 2012 153Volume 43 Number 2Michael PiggottWhether the NAAs guides publishing program fits within an integrated strategic vision for its own Trove-like solution is not clear, not least because to this author, at least, such a strategic vision itself is difficult to discern. What do Fact Sheets + research Guides + recordSearch add up to? Are they the most effective discovery and access tools given the available technology and what researchers have available to them elsewhere? Are they the most effective tools to provide user access to the one thing only the archives have, namely information with an inherent added value as evidence because it resides in records in context?yet the open secret the guides embody, of course, is that they are more than aids to finding. Their physical existence enables so much more, and it is doubtless why the Archives persists in producing them as hybrids. They are launched strategically for maximum media impact, the NT guide for example appearing to commemorate the centenary of the Commonwealths acquisition of the Territory from South Australia. They announce and publicise in a solid, scholarly, serious way, and stimulate new research interest. With this guide my appetite for digging down is whetted wrote the NT Administrator Tom Pauling in his Foreword. They allow for some cost recovery. And finally, in an era of downsizing collections located in state capitals and co-location of reading rooms, a guide to Commonwealth archives about a State or Territory but inconveniently held around Australia, if increasingly digitised, can be both reassuring and revealing. Politics, Pr, and resource discovery: the duke would understand.Note: This is a considerably expanded version of a paper first presented to the hobart branch of the Australian Society of Archivists, 10 may 2012. The views expressed here are the authors alone, not the NAAs.Alves, lesley. 2009. Lands Guide: a guide to finding records of Crown land at Public Record Office Victoria . melbourne: PrOV.Australian Archives. 1988. Relations in records. A guide to family history sources in the Australian Archives. Canberra: AGPS.Australian Archives. 1991. Lighthouses in Australia. A guide to records held by the Australian Archives. Canberra: AGPS.Australian Archives. 1998. Federation: the guide to records. Canberra: Australian Archives.Australian Society of Archivists. Committee on descriptive Standards. 2007. Describing archives in context: A guide to Australasian practice . Canberra: ASA. Australian War memorial. 1982. A general guide to the library collections and archives . Canberra: AWm.Australian War memorial. 1983. A guide to the personal family and official papers of C E W Bean. Canberra: AWm.REFERENCESDownloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014 154 Australian Academic & Research LibrariesArchival Guides and the National Archives of Australiabettington, Jacki et al. 2008. Keeping archives. 3rd edn. Canberra: Australian Society of Archivists.blake, Celia. 1988. Collections in Melbourne. A guide to Commonwealth Government records. Canberra: Australian Archives.Condren, Avril. 1995. The finding aid as duke of Omnium: A standard to fail by. in Peter biskup et al, eds, Debates and discourses. Selected Australian writings on archival theory. Canberra Australian Society of Archivists, (pp. 171-9).Eldershaw, P. r. 1957. Guide to the Public Records of Tasmania, Section one: Colonial Secretarys Office Record Group. hobart: Tasmanian State Archives.Jadeja, raj. 1994. Parties to the award; a guide to the pedigrees and archival resources of federally registered trade unions, employer associations and their peak councils in Australia 1904-1994. Canberra: Noel butlin Archives, ANu.ling, Ted. 2011. Commonwealth Government records about the Northern Territory. Canberra: National Archives of Australia.National library of Australia. 1964-1979. Guide to collections of manuscripts relating to Australia. Canberra, NlA.National library of Australia. Guide to the papers of Sir Edmund Barton. Available at:, michael & maggie Shapley. 2011. Prime Ministers at the Australian National University. An archival guide. Canberra: ANureed, Janet & Kathleen Oakes. 1977. Women in Australian society, 1901-45. A guide to the holdings of Australian Archives relating to women and women in Australia: an annotated guide to records. Canberra: AGPS.Society of American Archivists. 2005. A glossary of archival and records terminology. Available at: of melbourne. Archives. 1983. University of Melbourne Archives: Guide to collections. Parkville, Vic: university of melbourne.Downloaded by [University of Western Ontario] at 18:54 13 November 2014


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