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Australian Science Archives Project

Annual Report

ISSN 0817-7174

Activities and Professional Services

ASAP staff were engaged in numerous activities in a wide variety of areas. Addressing all aspects of our aims and objectives is proving to be a challenging task, demanding the development of diverse skills and expertise.

Information Services
Continuing Projects
Research and Development


Collection work has remained an important part of ASAP's work, and is regarded as one of our central activities. However, contract work and work on at-risk collections has sometimes had to be given a higher priority than work on historical collections. 1994-95 saw the creation of the Collections team consisting of Lisa Cianci and Andrea Barnes, whose main task is to ensure that work on such collections is maintained. Both have continued to be on call in support roles for larger projects and contract work. Despite the many other demands on their time, they have, with the aid of casual staff and practicum students, managed to complete some important collections, as follows:

ASI - Australasian Society for Immunology, Incorporated

Established in 1970, the ASI provides interaction and communication amongst immunologists in Australasia. The Society holds meetings, lectures, symposia, etc. for immunologists and students of immunology, and publishes newsletters and periodicals to keep its members informed of new developments. In 1993, Harry Ward was made Honorary Archivist and was appointed to create an archive of ASI records. ASAP took on the project working with Harry Ward. The work on the records of the ASI was completed this year with the production of a Guide prepared by Gavan McCarthy, Harry Ward and Lisa Cianci, with assistance from Lisa O'Sullivan.

A.D. Butcher (1915 - 1992)

Alfred Dunbavin Butcher was Chairman of the Zoology Board of Victoria, 1962 - 1987 and Deputy Director of Conservation in Victoria, 1973 - 1978. Prior to that he was Director of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1949 - 1973. Some of the records from this collection were discovered during the project conducted by ASAP at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens in 1993, and work on the collection was funded by the Friends of the Zoo. The project is close to completion and the production of a guide to the records. Data were prepared by Gavan McCarthy, Helen Spry, David Fowler, Stewart Brash and Daniel Cass. The records are currently with the Australian Science Archives Project, but they will eventually be transferred to the La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria.

FACS - Federation of Asian Chemical Societies

The Federation of Asian Chemical Societies was originally proposed by UNESCO to the countries in the Asian region which, in UNESCO terms, covers an area from New Zealand to Iran. ASAP was engaged to process the Federations records. A Guide to the records was produced by Gavan McCarthy, Rod Buchanan and Lisa Cianci with assistance from Lisa O'Sullivan.

ita - initial teaching alphabet

The initial teaching alphabet (ita) is an "initial alphabet" based on a phonetic spelling system for the teaching of reading to beginners, consisting of 44 symbols which represent the "40 sounds" of the English Language. Sir James Pitman's development of ita (initially called the "Augmented Roman Alphabet") was not an attempt at spelling reform, but the creation of a "medium" for the initial learning of reading. The archival work on the records of the ita Association was completed this year, and a Guide to the records has been produced. This was prepared by Gavan McCarthy, Helen Barber, and Lisa Cianci with Lisa O'Sullivan. The records will be deposited with the State Library of Victoria.

Le Souef Family records

The Friends of the Zoo also provided funding for work on this collection, which is scheduled to begin early next year. The Le Souef family had a strong tradition of natural history, demonstrated by their involvement, over three generations, in the running of many of Australia's Zoological Gardens and Societies. Included in this collection is a valuable set of glass negatives and lantern slides dating from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s.

Jock Marshall

This collection has been extensively rearranged and completely listed and work is now proceeding on the index. The National Library, where the collection will be deposited, has generously provided $5,000 towards the processing costs.

Peter Mason

This collection has been virtually complete for some months. Contact with Sheila Mason, the widow of Peter, regarding the possible return of non-archival material to the family revealed the existence of further material stored in Sydney. This material was brought to Canberra by Sheila Mason, who examined the collection and was able to offer advice on some material, for example the identity of some of the people in photographs. Since then a further item has been donated by Sheila. This collection should be finalised shortly.

Royal Australasian Chemical Society (RACI)

The records of the Royal Australasian Chemical Society (RACI) have been an on-going project for ASAP. This year Andrea Barnes completed inventory work on the majority of records which are currently held by the University of Melbourne Archives, including the Society's administrative records, conference abstracts and membership files. RACI stands as a good example of a scientific society which recognises the value of its own past and is committed to preserving it.

Sir Sydney Sunderland (1910 - 1993)

Sir Sydney Sunderland was a graduate of the medical course at the University of Melbourne 1935, and became Professor of Anatomy in 1951, a position he held until 1967. He was also Professor of Experimental Neurology at the University of Melbourne, 1961-74; and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, 1961-75. Sunderland was highly regarded for his work in neurology. He continued his research in the Anatomy Department of the University of Melbourne until the 1990s. The records comprising the Sunderland Collection were donated by Lady Sunderland and the Medical Faculty of the University. The collection was worked on by Andrea Barnes, John Bolcer (our visiting American student) and Lisa Cianci, and will be deposited at the University of Melbourne Archives. It has provided ASAP with further experience in handling restricted and sensitive material.

J.S. Turner

This year ASAP received funding from the Feilman Foundation to undertake a detailed inventory-level description of the records of J. S. Turner held by the University of Melbourne Archives. Turner was Professor of Botany and Plant Physiology at the University of Melbourne, 1938 - 1973, and was recognised for his leadership in the field of conservation. The pressure of other work has unfortunately meant that work on this collection has had to be deferred until next year. Andrea Barnes will be responsible for the work on these records.

Yallourn Power Station

Andrea Barnes with John Bolcer spent a number of days on-site at the old Yallourn Power Station completing an overview of their remaining records. Scheduled for destruction, the Yallourn Power Station has been classified by the Historic Buildings Council, and ASAP's work was part of a larger documentary process to ensure that information about the station was preserved beyond its demolition. A preliminary accession report has been completed by Andrea, which includes recommendations for further work on the more valuable records found.


Gavan McCarthy and Tim Sherratt have both developed a level of expertise which creates a high demand for their skills in diverse areas of the community. This has been reflected by invitations to speak at conferences, and their engagement as professional consultants. Over the last year, Gavan has provided project management for records and archival programmes at a number of power generation facilities. Following our successful work in establishing the Hazelwood Power Station archives, ASAP was contracted to work on the archival records of the Morwell Mine and Southern Hydro Ltd. These projects follow a similar pattern to Hazelwood, with a local archive being created to control records that are vital to the continuous running of the businesses. Each business has supplied its staff to process the records, with support from ASAP through on-site visits by Gavan McCarthy and 'help' lines provided by ASAP core staff.


The Hazelwood Power Station Archives Project, coordinated by Rex Hibbert under the direction of Gavan McCarthy, has continued over the past 12 months with the inventory processing of 12,490 items comprising 365.2 linear metres. Brian McCahon and Josephine Marek have been working steadily at Hazelwood Power Station to achieve these results. The Public Record Office of Victoria has now authorised the destruction of many of the non-archival records processed at Hazelwood. A Master ADS Database has been set up at the Power Station with accession, series and provenance data compiled by Josephine, Brian and Lisa Cianci. The project is continuing with new material currently being accessioned in preparation for retention decisions and, where applicable, further inventory processing. The benefits of the ADS in fast records retrieval are demonstrated constantly in this work.

Morwell Mine

Commenced in 1994, the Morwell Mine Archival Programme, like the Southern Hydro Project, has arisen out of the need for management of records due to the changes that have occurred to the old State Electricity Commission of Victoria. The project is being run by Robert (Bob) Mansell with direction from Gavan McCarthy. A team of Morwell Mine staff, Brian Gilbert, Debbie Graham, John McLernon and Jim Pelacchi, have taken on the work which includes inventory processing of records using the ADS, and compilation of accession, series and provenance data. To date, 3,245 items have been processed at inventory level comprising 40.2 linear metres.

Southern Hydro

Work on the Southern Hydro Archives Project commenced in 1994. The project came about through investigations by key staff into the records management and archival functions of Southern Hydro in light of changes that have occurred throughout the old State Electricity Commission of Victoria. The project is coordinated by Rod Alexander of Southern Hydro under the direction of Gavan McCarthy. The project has involved the inventory processing of records from the Eildon Power Station, Rubicon Power Station Administration, Mt Beauty Power Station, Clover Power Station and West Kiewa Power Station. Warwick Mitchell and Heinz Wiesenboeck have been working consistently not only on the inventory data, but also the accession, series and provenance data which provide further contextual information about the records, their contents and functions. At the moment, the Inventory database consists of 1,978 items covering 62.88 linear metres.


This year has seen ASAP take on some major consultancy and contract tasks and apply the Archival Data System in both archival and records management situations. Work with the power generation industry has been the mainstay of ASAP Melbourne's activities, and fulfilling the needs of these clients has helped ASAP develop its products and services. This work has led to the realisation that a number of science-based organisations need more than archival services, and are looking for their whole records environment to be reorganised. ASAP has therefore become involved in helping establish new record management systems that can deal with mixed record environments containing substantial electronic and paper-based systems. With the assistance of Bruce Smith, our records management consultant, ASAP has begun looking at records control based on the key functions of a business or institution. ASAP's Archival Data System can be used to collect information about current records systems which is then used to analyse record structures, relationships and record flows with a view to creating new and more appropriate systems. This extension of ASAP's work helps us better serve our clients while at the same time providing better resources for historians and other researchers, now and in the future.

Generation Victoria

In 1995 ASAP won a public tender to index and classify the records of Generation Victoria, Production Technology and related sections of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in preparation for an imaging process.

With the disaggregation of the power generating industry in Victoria, and the new structure that is being established for the industry, a number of archival and records management issues have arisen. The records of the SECV are now relevant to a number of competing business units. ASAP's task involves identifying records from the technological and corporate support sections of Generation Victoria that relate to the new business units. The functions which were previously centralised will now be handled directly by the new businesses and as a consequence the records that have documented those functions in the past will have to be available to the new businesses. As some of those records are vital to the on-going activities of more than one business, it was decided that those records would be digitaly imaged. Generally speaking the business units are based around the existing power stations and their respective fuel source whether it be brown coal, gas or hydro.

[ASAP staff in control room]
ASAP Staff, Owen Griffiths, Lisa Enright and Michelle Novacco

ASAP provided Generation Victoria with teams of archival staff to classify the records and determine the access needs of the new entities. About 10% of the records have multiple owners in the new structure, and the project identified these and arranged for them to be digitally imaged by the Australian Securities Commission. The resultant images will be stored on CD-ROMs and accessed via a database of descriptive and contextual information about the records. At present, ASAP is negotiating the second round of the project, in which we will act as managers controlling the access of business units to records and overseeing their eventual dispersal.

WWW Development

ASAP Canberra's experience in the development of Internet resources has led to interest by organisations wishing to engage our services. Our major contract to date has been with the Australian Academy of Science, for whom ASAP has developed a detailed WWW site containing information about the Academy's activities, awards, educational projects, and administration. The Academy is very pleased with the result, and we expect to continue our work with them over the coming year.

Information Services


ASAP's Internet resources have undergone a dramatic change in the past twelve months. In that time ASAP's World Wide Web (WWW) site has become one of the world's main Internet facilities for information on the history of science, technology and medicine. ASAPWeb (as the site is known) provides a range of resources including Bright SPARCS and the WWW Virtual Library for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

Bright SPARCS was originally planned as a multimedia CD-ROM, utilising data about Australian scientists from RASA (the Register of the Archives of Science in Australia). However, the financial outlay required for CD-ROM development seemed too great, and our growing experience with the WWW led us to believe that we could achieve much of what we had hoped for by publishing Bright SPARCS on the Internet. In August 1994, the first version on Bright SPARCS was made available through the WWW. This included biographical information on over 2,000 Australian scientists, as well as details on any known archival sources, and a small number of links to additional biographical materials and photographs. Bright SPARCS has been designed to encourage exploration, and the entire database can be searched or browsed. The main advantage the new Bright SPARCS has over the original CD-ROM idea, is that Bright SPARCS is now a cooperative project, linking together resources from around the world. The current version of Bright SPARCS is a work-in-progress that will continue to grow and develop well into the future.

The WWW Virtual Library for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine is the first point-of-call for anyone surfing the WWW for information in this broad subject area. Part of the official WWW Virtual Library, originally established by CERN, this facility provides links to over 150 sites around the world. There are sections devoted to scientific fields, museums, email lists, and a biographical dictionary. ASAP maintains this facility for the use of the international community, and its development has raised ASAP's profile around the world. Developments on ASAPWeb continue apace, confirming ASAP's role as a leader in the provision on on-line information in the history of science. Current projects include the publication of a WWW version of Rod Home's Physics in Australia to 1945, and the scanning and processing of more than a hundred biographical memoirs originally published in Historical Records of Australian Science. The latter project is being funded by the Australian Academy of Science. Both of these resources will be cross-linked with Bright SPARCS.

Continuing Projects


In August 1994, ASAP's major project at the CSL Plasma Products facility was finalised. The project processed a large backlog of records and established a system for the on-going management of records. ASAP has continued to work with CSL, providing an archivist on a part-time basis to continue accessioning and assist in retrieving records. Robert Hartland is currently engaged on the project, consolidating the work of Dani Zephyr.


ASAP's work at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute was expanded this year, with Bronwyn Hewitt being provided with new computer resources and assistance from Andrea Barnes. This increase in activity has been brought about by the the imminent retirement of the Director and other prominent WEHI scientists.


During the last twelve months the Chief Archivist continued his membership of the Council of the Australian Society of Archivists Inc, remained as Convener of the Science, Technology and Medicine Archives special interest group of the ASA, remained as Honorary Secretary of the Health and Medicine Museums special interest group of Museums Australia and joined the Science Archives Subgroup of the International Concil on Archives Provisional Section on University and Research Institution Archives. He also published a review of Ann Moyal's Portraits in Science for Archives and Manuscripts and presented versions of the paper "Text and Context: Rediscovering the astonishing discourse" at a number of venues.

[Gavan McCarthy and Tim Sherratt]
Gavan McCarthy and Tim Sherratt in outreach mode

The Head of Information Services has been active in spreading the word about the WWW. A highly successful 'Introduction to the WWW' seminar was held in November 1994, and a number of similar presentations are planned. Important new associations with Halstead Press and the ABC have been established, arising out of ASAP's involvement in a consortium to prepare a proposal for the 'Australia on CD' program. The WWW is proving to be an ever more important means of outreach, as ASAP develops its international profile.

Research and Development


With the increasingly sophisticated demands made upon our Archival Data System we have decided to move the package into a Microsoft Access platform. This will provide more user-friendly features and have considerably faster data processing times. ASAP has been lucky to secure the services of Trevor Blum who has been working as our consultant in this development.


As described under Information Services, the Bright SPARCS project has undergone radical redevelopment. It is no longer conceived of simply in terms of a product, but as an ongoing project central to the work of ASAP. Bright SPARCS is our main information resource, and will be increasingly closely integrated with ADS to create a data-handling network that takes information all the way from the archival coal face to electronic publication. Development of Bright SPARCS will continue both in terms of its content, and its structure. As the WWW develops, new means of delivering information are becoming available and Bright SPARCS will draw on these to create a facility that is both authoritative and exciting.

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Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 10 January 1996
Prepared by: Lisa O'Sullivan
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 25 February 1998