Archives and Societal Provenance

Australian Essays


  • Michael Piggott, Independent archives scholar, Australia

Records and archival arrangements in Australia are globally relevant because Australia’s indigenous people represent the oldest living culture in the world, and because modern Australia is an ex-colonial society now heavily multicultural in outlook. Archives and Societal Provenance explores this distinctiveness using the theoretical concept of societal provenance as propounded by Canadian archival scholars led by Dr Tom Nesmith. The book’s seventeen essays blend new writing and re-workings of earlier work, comprising the fi rst text to apply a societal provenance perspective to a national setting.

After a prologue by Professor Michael Moss entitled A prologue to the afterlife, this title consists of four sections. The first considers historical themes in Australian recordkeeping. The second covers some of the institutions which make the Australian archival story distinctive, such as the Australian War Memorial and prime ministerial libraries. The third discusses the formation of archives. The fourth and final part explores debates surrounding archives in Australia. The book concludes by considering the notion of an archival afterlife.
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Practitioners and students of Library and Information Science and Archive Science


Book information

  • Published: October 2012
  • Imprint: Chandos Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1-84334-712-5


"Complex, unorthodox and sometimes radical ideas are discussed and explored in ways that are accessible, frequently entertaining, often humorous but always provocative."--Archives and Records, August 1, 2014

"The enjoyment and the impact comes not least because of the clarity and erudition of much of the writing here. Complex, unorthodox and sometimes radical ideas are discussed and explored in ways that are accessible, frequently entertaining, often humorous but always provocative."--Archives & Records, August 1, 2014

"It is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any archivist and an encouragement to further explore how the evolution of the archival professional nationally and internationally has affected records creation…The personal, reflective and thoughtful."--Information & Culture September 1, 2014

"Michael Piggott has been a provocative contributor to the philosophy and practice of archival programmes for a long time now. This collection of his essays spans his career…as well as his most recent writings. The overall effect is a magisterial sweep through the Australian archival and record-keeping scene, peppered with challenging insights."--The Australian Library Journal, Vol. 62, No. 4, 2013

"The essays are erudite and enthusiastic, and they […] reveal a deep Australian archival sensibility while discussing theories, debates, events and people from the wider (mostly Anglophone) archival world. This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand more about records and their meaning for society."--Library and Information History

Table of Contents

Introduction: Societal provenance. Part 1 History: Themes in Australian recordkeeping, 1788-2010; Schellenberg in Australia: Meaning and precedent; Archives: An indispensable resource for Australian historians? The file on H. Part 2 Institutions: Libraries and archives: From subordination to partnership; Making sense of prime ministerial libraries; War, sacred archiving and C.E.W. Bean. Part 3 Formation: Saving the statistics, destroying the census; Documenting Australian business: Invisible hand or centrally planned? Appraisal ‘firsts’ in twenty-first-century Australia. Part 4 Debates: Two cheers for the records continuum; Recordkeeping and recordari: Listening to Percy Grainger; Alchemist magpies? Collecting archivists and their critics; The poverty of Australia’s recordkeeping history; Acknowledging Indigenous recordkeeping.