Ignore me - filler


Ignore me - filler
Australian Science Archives Project
providing access to Australia's scientific,
medical & technological heritage

What are the archives
of science?

What are the archives of science?
'Documenting a life's work': the records of individuals
'Safeguarding the record': the records of scientific institutions
Further Information

What are the archives of science?

The archives of science are any records that document not only the results of scientific endeavour but also the processes of scientific work. They may, and do, vary with individuals, with disciplines and through time. They include, in addition to correspondence of all kinds, professional or technical documents such as laboratory notebooks, experimental drawings and calculations, lecture notes, diaries, travel journals, reports and publications, administrative files, photographs and other non-manuscript materials.

The records of individual scientists will reflect the important roles they play in aspects of public life outside their professional work, whether as members of official committees, councils or advisory bodies, or through their influence as writers and thinkers. Science does not exist in a social vacuum. Cultural, economic, political or religious developments - all of great interest to historians - are likely to find expression in the records of scientific activity.

Personal records are of vital importance if we are to understand something of the human face of science. Too often it is assumed that the life of a scientist can be neatly divided into scientific and human halves. The archives of science should include material that enables researchers to move beyond this artificial dichotomy towards a fuller and richer understanding of science's role in our community.

Likewise, the archives of scientific institutions and industries provide not just an administrative record; they provide information about the personalities involved, about breakthroughs and dead-ends, and political battles won or lost. They offer many valuable insights into the context and practice of science in Australia.

'Documenting a life's work': the records of individuals

ASAP has considerable experience in working with scientists and their families to ensure that their personal records are preserved. Documenting a life's work is a difficult and sensitive task, but one that brings great rewards and fulfilment to all involved, as well as providing an important resource for researchers.

ASAP provides advice on storage, arrangement, and suitable repositories. Wherever possible, ASAP seeks to process collections before transferring them to the repository; however, this is only possible if sufficient funds are available. These funds are sometimes provided by the donors of the records themselves (substantial tax incentives are available to the donors of archives). Alternatively, ASAP will seek funding from other sources, such as trusts or foundations.

Processing of a collection begins with an on-site survey. Donors should resist the temptation to do a bit of 'tidying up', as the physical arrangement of papers can provide important clues for the archivist piecing together the documentary record. Once the initial survey has been completed, the collection will usually be transferred to an ASAP office for detailed listing and indexing. The result of this painstaking work is a published Guide to the collection, made available to researchers and libraries. The final stage in the process is the lodging of the collection and Guide with the chosen repository -- an important addition to Australia's scientific heritage.

'Safeguarding the record': the records of scientific instituitions

Australia's scientific heritage is to be found not just in universities or in the papers of retired scientists. ASAP works with scientific institutions and industries to ensure that their valuable records are preserved.

To an active organisation, archival collections may seem to be more of a burden than a resource. However, ASAP has developed a highly-efficient processing service that rapidly improves control over, and access to, such collections. For further details see ASAP's Archival and Records Services.

Further Information

Further information can be obtained by contacting ASAP's Head Office in Melbourne, or the Canberra Office. Details can be found in ASAP's Staff Directory.

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Published by: Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 9 September 1996
Comments or questions to: ASAPWeb (asapweb@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
Prepared by: Tim Sherratt
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 25 February 1998