‘The Age’ editorial (26/4) highlights the critical situation facing the National Archives of Australia and its core mission: in its own words, to collect ”records of Australian government decisions and actions as evidence. We do this to connect Australians with the nation's memory, their identity and history.”
Archives all over the world are confronting similar problems of managing rapidly increasing digital records while preserving vast print, oral and other records in different, often fragile formats. They all need the government financial support necessary to do this securely and durably. Ours are no exception.
Australian historians now report inordinate delays in gaining access to records not yet examined for access clearance. Delays of more than five years before researchers hear the results of their requests for access are now commonplace. There is even a reluctance for supervisors to recommend doctoral research topics that might draw on archival records, for fear that it would not be possible to complete a thesis in timely manner.
Studying our past and telling our stories is critical to our sense of belonging, to recovering hidden and awkward histories, and to creating our shared future. Our National Archives are the core resource for these stories as well as the indispensable repository of official records. We cannot afford to compromise on which records are kept or on the quality of their maintenance.
Professor Peter McPhee, Chair, History Council of Victoria
Edited letter can be seen here: https://theage.com.au/national/victoria/for-the-needy-schools-more-money-is-critical-20210429-p57nm1.html
Article in Australian Book Review can be seen here: https://www.australianbookreview.com.au/features/book-talk/464-book-talk/7765-the-digital-cliff-protecting-the-national-archives-of-australia-by-peter-mcphee
The History Council is the peak body for history in the State, with the objective of furthering historical literacy and awareness and inspiring public engagement with the past and its importance for understanding the world today. The council includes representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.
This response is supported by a majority of individual board members but does not necessarily represent the views of all of the institutions they represent.