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Archives and Societal Provenance - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9781843347125, 9781780633787

Archives and Societal Provenance

1st Edition

Australian Essays

Author: Michael Piggott
Paperback ISBN: 9781843347125
eBook ISBN: 9781780633787
Imprint: Chandos Publishing
Published Date: 22nd October 2012
Page Count: 358
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Table of Contents

A prologue to the afterlife


About the author

Chapter 1: Introduction: societal provenance


Terroir, culture and the individual

The aura of societal provenance

Australia and the Australian people

Other terminology

Applying societal provenance

Part 1: History

Chapter 2: Themes in Australian recordkeeping, 1788–2010


British recordkeeping legacy

The governing machinery

Immigrant nation

The ordinary Australian: free immigrants and soldiers


Chapter 3: Schellenberg in Australia: meaning and precedent


Assessing Schellenberg’s visit

Impact on the Paton Inquiry, and on Schellenberg

Political use

Cultural cringe

Impact of later visitors

Chapter 4: Archives: an indispensable resource for Australian historians?


The three-stage discovery model

Just how important are archives?

The Australian archives-history nexus

In summary

Chapter 5: The file on H


Part 2: Institutions

Chapter 6: Libraries and archives: from subordination to partnership


The setting – the 1950s

Schellenberg and the Paton Inquiry

Librarians’ guest, archivists’ hope

National Library Inquiry Committee

Inquiry membership

The inquiry supports separation

The arguments

Other later developments

Chapter 7: Making sense of prime ministerial libraries






Chapter 8: War, sacred archiving and C.E.W.Bean


The setting


What it all meant

Part 3: Formation

Chapter 9: Saving the statistics, destroying the census


Conducting the census


The current debate

Supporting destruction

The case for retention

Claim and counter-claim

The independent inquiry


Chapter 10: Documenting Australian business: invisible hand or centrally planned?


Handicaps and solutions

Conditioning factors

Chapter 11: Appraisal "firsts" in twenty-first-century Australia


Trust and Technology

Appraising census forms

Business archives

Australian Society of Archivists

In summary

Part 4: Debates

Chapter 12: Two cheers for the records continuum


The early to mid-1990s

Monash University

Frank Upward

The Australian audience

Abstractions, words and diagrams

Accolades and assessments

The inevitable limits of continuum theory

Chapter 13: Recordkeeping and recordari: listening to Percy Grainger


Percy Grainger

Rose Grainger

The recordkeeper

Finding an archives host

A convenient form of artificial memory

The Remembrancer

Rich archive, wretched memory

Memory-dependent recordkeeping

Chapter 14: Alchemist magpies? Collecting archivists and their critics


Historian friends

Sir Hilary Jenkinson

Chris Hurley

Richard Cox

A partial rejoinder

The collecting archivist

The results of collecting: it hardly matters

The results of collecting: it matters

Chapter 15: The poverty of Australia's recordkeeping history




Problems with traditional history

Criticism 1: it starts only in 1788

Criticism 2: a dated notion of what archives are and what archivists do

Criticism 3: the neglect of recordkeeping systems history

Criticism 4: the absence of a history of the record


Chapter 16: Acknowledging Indigenous recordkeeping



The need for new definitions


Message sticks

Cognitive records, Dreaming archives

Towards an inclusive Australian archival science

Epilogue: an archival afterlife




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.

Key Features

  • Presents material from a life’s career working and thinking about archives and records and their multiple relationships with history, biography, culture and society
  • The first book to focus specifically on the Australian archival scene
  • Covers a wide variety of themes, including: the theoretical concept of the records continuum; census records destruction; Prime Ministerial Libraries; and the documentation of war


Practitioners and students of Library and Information Science and Archive Science


No. of pages:
© Chandos Publishing 2012
22nd October 2012
Chandos Publishing
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:


2012 Phyllis Mander Jones Award, Australian Society of Archivists


"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

Ratings and Reviews

About the Author

Michael Piggott

Affiliations and Expertise

Independent archives scholar, Australia