“Memento’ – issue 38, 2010. National Archives of Australia

This issue provides looks at two of the NAA’s Exhibitions – one at the National Archives Canberra office on  ‘Australia’s forgotten Prime Minister’, Stanley Melbourne Bruce; and the other on its touring exhibition Shellshocked: Australia after armistice.  The front cover has a lovely photo of Bruce looking somewhat austere and slightly disapproving, perhaps as a reflection of his lack of notoriety or fame.  Dr David Lee, the author, says that some people compare Bruce to America’s Calvin Coolidge, as being of ‘no great distinction and little imagination’.  Lee disagrees, saying that Bruce ‘had as great an impact as any Australian prime minister… a complex and fascinating man; a sportsman, soldier , prime minister, anti-union politican, diplomat and visionary.’  The images provided in the article give little hint of this depth, although he is clearly a snappy dresser.  Worth looking at if you are in Canberra anytime until May.  Dr Marina Larsson examines the evidence of the impact of caring for physically and mentally wounded men on their families, especially the women, in the years after the First World War.  In addtion to the Exhibition, which is in Adelaide 5 March to 23 May, and in Perth, 4 June to 8 August, the article also references Dr Larsson’s book Shattered Anzacs: living with the scars of war.

As always, Memento ranges over a number of topics and subjects, from economic history to social tragedy and artistic and cultural endeavour.  Dr Andrea Benvenuti’s article on Australia’s response to British efforts to join the European Economic Union follows.  A recipient of the Margaret George Award in 2008, he has utilised the resources of the NAA well.  The article examines Australia’s sense of shock and betrayal, linked to fears that joining the Union would mean Britain would be less supportive of Commonwealth and particularly Australian trade concerns.

My favourite article was the one by Julia Church about the Australian Scottish Ladies Pipe Band world tour, in 1925.  It amply demonstrates the way in which Government archives document not just government transactions, but what we now think of as social transactions.  And it links back to the Stanley Bruce article in the first two paragraphs. Very nice.   Kate Bagnall goes beyond the archives to track down Jimmie Minahan, an Australian chinese man attempting to return to Australia, the land of his birth, in 1908.  As Kate says, ‘In the time between his departure as a five-year-old boy and his returnas a man of 31, the Australian colonies had federated the attitued towards non-white immigrants, particularly Chinese had hardened.’  Jimmie’s attempts to be recognized as Australian tested the new immigration laws and remains as a landmark case in Australian law.

Only one real criticism for this well produced and glossy magazine (and it’s one that applies to lots of archives promotional magazines) and that is, there are no references.  A series number, file reference or barcode would be very useful, especially for researchers wanting to do some follow up.  Archives are all about access, and this seems such an obvious lack.


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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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