Last year’s mail

As some of you may know, I am a judge for the Australian Society of Archivists’ Mander Jones awards.  The awards recognise a range of publications, from finding aids, to scholarly articles about archives, to histories and research publications that use and discuss archives in interesting ways. Each year, a series of packages arrive on my doorstep (have I said how much I like getting parcels?) and I open each one with a mix of anticipation and dread – anticipation that the contents will expand my understanding and awareness of the rich variety of Australian archives, and dread that they will not, or that my assessment will somehow fail to identify the truly worthy.

It’s that time of year, and I have already happily taken a pair of scissors to an Australia Post Express Post bag, and to the sticky tape on the box inside (we like things to be safe and secure). Of course, I can’t tell you about the contents, and you will have to wait for Octconferober to find out the winners.  But I can, I think, share some of the nominees from last year, and my own responses to the works.

Queensland Government Digital Continuity Strategy: Future proofing the critical digital records of government business, Queensland State Archives 2012. (

A respectable addition to the library of works on the subject, and a creditable attempt to summarise the issues and identify strategies.  The definitions of digital preservation, digital continuity and digital archiving in the main text are, however, confused, and confusing, while the glossary is more clear. I’m not sure that the limited discussion in the paper helps records managers argue their case.

Michael Piggott, Archives and Societal Provenance; Australia essays (Chandos, 2012) (

An excellent summary of Michael’s work over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed the Prologue, and the essay about Robert Hawke.  Overall, though, I am not sure that the book makes a definitive case for societal provenance, as much as it does for Michael’s wit and charm.

A Falcon century: North Sydney Boys’ High School 1912 – 2012 (

A beautifully presented, well researched book, which understands its market well. Eberhard is not afraid to engage with the controversies of the day – bullying, Vietnam and the cadet movement, etc – but does so with a delicate, non-judgmental touch.  I think this will make the book more acceptable to a broad range of the school community.

With Faith and Zeal Resplendent, De la Salle College. (

Another beautiful book, which really does use pictures to tell a thousand words.  I liked the admixture of photos and photos of text and realia.  Going through the book I saw the school grow and change to meet the challenges of changing educational standards, culminating with the   beautiful photo on the river for outdoor education, and the ski tour – something the early students would have been bemused by ( and conversely, modern generations and the Debutante Ball. How did they convince all those girls to wear white?!)

Mali Buku-Runamaram: Images of Milingimbi and surrounds, 1926 – 1948. (

I found this book both revealing and moving. A sensitive and unusual approach to an issue that will become more important to archives and collecting institutions in coming years. The use of ‘language’ for the captions was inspired.

Price of Valour, John Hamilton, Pan MacMillan Australia. (,%20John)

A beautifully written work, with great use of quotes from archival and contemporary sources. The acknowledgements provide a brief view into the wealth of research that backs this book.

Saulwick Polls and Social Research – a resource for exploring the work and archives of Irving Saulwick (

Nicely designed with good links to the ADA and Uni of Melbourne Archives.  Not sure if the topics chosen reflect the actual arrangement of material or polls, or have been assigned by the developers of the project.

Sentenced beyond the Seas (

Easily located via a google search or via the main menu (if you know that you are looking for convict information). Some of the hyperlinks are a bit circular. Some of the information provided in the FAQs could have been provided as an introduction or background to the project, providing users with some context before they click on search. Accessible, clean and easy to use.

Richard Lehane, ‘Documenting sites of creation’, Archives and Manuscripts, Vol. 40 No. 3, November 2012, 171-180 (

A fascinating exploration of the idea of provenance and context, in the physical and virtual environment in which records are created. I enjoyed Lehane’s weaving of digital and analogue examples. The idea of virtual libraries was an intriguing introduction to ideas about access, which I hope Lehane follows up.

Janette Pelosi, ‘Submitted for Approval of the Colonial Secretary’: popular entertainment in the State Archives, 1828-1856’,  Chapter 7 (pp.83-100) and Appendix A, Plays Submitted to the Colonial Secretary, NSW, Australia 1841-1856 (pp.244-249) in A World of Popular Entertainments: an edited volume of critical essays, ed. by Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Janette’s essay revealed an interesting collection of materials within the Colonial Secretary’s Office of New South Wales. Considered logically, once the requirement for plays to be submitted for approval was made evident, it should have been no surprise to find these works. But that’s sometimes the joy of archives – that the things we find are so unexpected. I loved the fact that she was able to trace the plays that had been borrowed and not returned, so that provenance for the material was retained. An entertaining and well written essay, that explains both the history of plays and public performance in New South Wales, and opens up some of the arcana of archival practice.




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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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