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5 corrections, most recently by noelwoodhouse - Show corrections

Early Australia

Collection of

Historical Documents

Stowed away in the British Isles. France, Holland, Spain, and elsewhere overseas are at least 200,000 original documents relating to the history and affairs of Australia and of the South Pacific. Arrangements are now being made for photographic facsimiles of

these documents to be made and brought to Australia.

The trustees of the Mitchell Library have been considering this matter for some years, states an exchange. They have realised that, although the library         possesses manuscript and typescript copies of large numbers of important documents, the position is not satisfac- tory. Such copies are not entirely re- liable, as there is always a margin of


Moreover, the copyists do not give the whole collection with which they are dealing. A choice has to be made by individuals, and no-one on earth can really make that choice. What seems to be the selector to be im-

material may be of great importance from another point of view.

The trustees delayed action because of the technical difficulties in the way of reproduction. Now, however, photo- graphy offers a means of obtaining facsimiles, which is effective and not duly costly. Reproduction is made by the use of the 35 millimetre micro- film.

Work will begin with the documents in the Public Records Office, London, the British Museum, and other British collections. Next reproductions will be made from documents in the French archives. A great many documents in those archives have already been copied. The films, as in the case of those copied in London, will be a use- ful and valuable check. Moreover, there are many documents which have never been copied.

Later search will be made for docu- ments of Australian interest in the

achives of Spain, Holland, Portugal, and other countries. The object is to copy all documents relating to Aus- tralia, wherever they may be.


When a negative reaches Australia, a positive film will be taken off. In the case of the most important docu- ments, a series of enlarged copies will be made from the film by means of the photostat method.

One point that has weighed with the trustees is that here is a danger that the documents in the Publie Records Office and elsewhere might be des- troyed in the event of hostilities.

The trustees realise that people in

the other States will desire to have  

copies of documents relating to their States. They have offered, therefore, to have positive films of all such docu- ments made from the negative. Any State Public Library will thus be able to obtain facsimiles of documents re- lating to its State by paying a reason- able proportion of the cost. A similar offer has been made to the National

Library, Canberra, as it is expected that this library will desire to have facsimiles of documents concerning every State and Australia as a whole.

The Mitchell Library trustees have set up the machinery for carrying out this tremendous task. An important part of their work was the selection of a suitable officer to search for material and to make the necessary arrangements to obtain the facsimiles. The Mitchell Librarian, Miss Ida Leeson, will leave in two or three months to initiate the work.


Miss Leeson will go by way of the United States to discuss with the authorities of the Library of Congress, Washington, the methods of handling the material and obtaining the best results. For 12 years this library has been engaged in obtaining from the archives of Europe facsimiles of all documents relating to the American continent. The total cost of this huge undertaking has been more than ¬£300,000, and the funds have been large- ly supplied by John D. Rockefeller, jun. Facsimiles have been made of more than 2,000,000 documents. The cost for Australia, of course, will not be so  


In the earlier years of the American enterprise, the film method had not been evolved. Facsimiles were obtained

by the photostat method at much higher cost. Only in the last few years has the relatively inexpensive micro- fllm method been available. Moreover, the mass of material about the

America is immeasurably grouter than

that about Australia.

Miss Leeson will also visit Ottawa to consult the officers of the Canadian Archives Department. Canada has for many years been obtaining from the European records copies and facsímiles

of documents about Canada. In recent

years the photographic method has been successfully used.

In London, Miss Leeson will arrange to obtain facsimiles of the mass of im- portant documents in the Public Re- cords Office and elsewhere, including the little used material in the national history section of the British Museum. She will also search for other sources.

The trustees feel that, in spite of the wealth of material in the Mitchell Library, no student can deal with any important subject of Australian history or research without having access to the documents in the London collec- tions. Their aim, therefore, is to make all this material available in the form of facsimiles. The student or research worker will then know that he has available an exact reproduction of all originals. He will also feel that he has the whole series and will be able to make his own selection.


Eventually, it is hoped, that every scrap of material about the history of Australia. preserved anywhere in the world, will be found, in facsimile, in Australia itself.

"It is hard to set a limit to the pos- sibilities of the microfilm method," said the Principal Librarian of the Public Library, Mr W. H. Hould. "It   will be used for making facsimiles not only of documents overseas, but also   of our own documents, and for many other uses. Books or newspapers can be reproduced by this method, which means a great saving in storage space and assures preservation. We have already had photostats made of the Banks Journal and of other valuable documents, and this work will be much extended.

"In a few generations every library   will have not only its hundreds of thousands, or its millions, of printed volumes, but its hundreds of thousands or its millions of facsimile."