archival guides and the national archives of australia
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Archival 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: 10.1080/00048623.2012.10722267
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2012.10722267
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146 Australian Academic & Research Libraries
A 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
in 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 AuSTrAliA
June 2012 147Volume 43 Number 2
Commonwealth 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.
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Archival Guides and the National Archives of Australia
entity. 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 arch