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Director's Report

Looking back, 1997 was a year of challenge, achievement, and change. The Australian Science Archives Project, continuing its strong and rapid evolutionary development, established a significant commercial foundation based on pharmaceutical and power industry work in Victoria, and focused its cultural heritage activities in the history and archives of Australian science, technology and medicine in the Canberra Office. The successful achievement of major commercial projects both on time and on budget marked the high points for the Melbourne Office and these in turn led to further work of a similar nature and size. The high points for the Canberra Office were the extraordinary success of the ambitious Cabinet of Curiosities and the launching of a number of on-line exhibits on Bright Sparcs.

However, life rarely proceeds without significant challenges and 1997 had more than its fair share. Unusual and peculiar long-term illnesses to a number of key staff severely depleted our human resources which resulted in the re-deployment of staff from longer term management, planning and research activities into day-to-day project work. A significant challenge from a commercial competitor also diverted activity from getting the job done to the defense of contracts and commercial projects. And to cap off the year legal activity which involved ASAP in a third-party role stole valuable human resources and diverted staff from project management, planning and marketing activities. The financial outcome of these challenges, despite gross revenue for the year of $1.8 million, resulted in a significant reduction in our working capital base and a review of the planned activities for 1998.

The most important changes that occurred in 1997 were in our staffing and organisational structure. Tim Sherratt, who had been associated with ASAP since its inception resigned as Deputy Director at the end of June. Tim had forecast his intention in 1996 and had been working to ensure that the knowledge and expertise he had developed in establishing and running ASAPWeb and Bright Sparcs was passed to other ASAP staff. Elissa Tenkate in Canberra and Robin Stephens in Melbourne picked up the content and technical components respectively. Lisa OíSullivan, who had been with ASAP since the early 1990s in a variety of roles resigned as our Assistant Director responsible for Finance and Human Resources in August. Again she had given us fair warning of this change as she discussed regularly the development of her academic career and her desire to travel and study overseas.

August also saw the successful completion of the second phase of the major Generation Victoria project and the release of the lease of the building at 158 Bouverie Street Carlton. This was home to this project for two years and the final distribution of the records and withdrawal from the building marked the conclusion of a very special chapter in the history of ASAP. It was credit to all involved, especially Lisa Enright, the Project Team Leader, for the thoroughness and spirit in which this was achieved. In her move to the ASAP Melbourne Office Lisa took on the role of Chief Archivist.

The re-structuring of ASAP brought about by this period of significant change led to the enthusiastic appointment in September of Mark Raphael to the newly configured role of Business Manager and the appointment of two field officers, Katrina Dean in the Canberra Office and Fay Anderson in the Melbourne Office.

Other highlights of the year included the preparation and launch by Sir Gustav Nossal, President of the Australian Academy of Science, of the online exhibition, The Giantís Eye: The Optical Munitions Exhibition on 30 April. The launch brought together many people who had been involved in the vital optical munitions work during the Second World War and enabled ASAP to receive valuable feedback on details of the exhibition - information missing or not captured by the records. The launch, which included a display of some of the records and artefacts, was held at the Mt Stromlo Observatory and received significant attention from the local media.

In Melbourne, the highlights included the implementation of a substantial project dealing with SECV personnel records and related records. This project, which will last well into 1998, required significant planning and analysis, as it involved the documentation and management of a very large quantity of records at a fine level. It provided new challenges for the ASAP Archival Documentation Management System, which, under Joanne Evansí expert guiding hand, has again proved to be an excellent tool for these types of projects.

Although in some ways it was a difficult year for ASAP, the achievements far outweighed the set-backs. This was entirely due to the commitment, intelligence and creativity of the ASAP staff at all levels and it is these strengths that are necessary to establish a solid foundation for the future.

Gavan McCarthy

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Published by: Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 1 September 1998
Comments or questions to: ASAPWeb (
Prepared by: Lisa Cianci
Date modified: 1 September 1998