03 January 2010

William Oates on regional archives

Jim Belshaw’s recent post New England story – new states, archives and the preservation of our past drew my attention to a fascinating recent post by William Oates, University Archivist in the Heritage Centre of the University of New England, on the Archives Outside website of State Records New South Wales.

It relates the story of the fight to have regional archives established in New South Wales, starting with the then Warden of the New England University College writing in 1947 to the NSW Under Secretary of Justice NSW to protest about a decision that records located in the Armidale Court House could only be researched by NEUC staff and students at the State Library in Sydney (over 500 kilometres away). Local access to historic records was forbidden.

In a triumph for common sense, Madgwick succeeded in having custody of the Court Records transferred to NEUC custody in July, 1947. This led to a call to the local community for donations of family papers and records, and decisions by the University to appoint a librarian (Frank Rodgers) who was also a professionally qualified archivist, and to dedicate floor space in the basement of the Dixson Library for the archival holdings.

In due course, with the passage of the New South Wales Archives Act in 1960, Rodgers was given a seat on the Board which was established to manage the State’s archives, and the University went about an active program of collecting records and establishing itself as the principal repository of records in Northern New South Wales.

Read William Oates’s post here, and see some wonderful photographs including one of 1960s archivist Alan Wilkes fording the Macleay River on horseback in the quest for records from a property that was only accessible by horse.

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