UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register


Inscription Ceremony, 5 March 2015 at the NSW State Library

From left: Nat Williams (National Library of Australia), Professor the Hon Dame Marie Basheer AD CVO, Dr Rosslyn Russell (MOTW Committee), Dr Alex Byrne (NSW State Library), and Sue Coppin (University of Adelaide)

In May 2013, the University Archives was honoured to have a selection of the earliest University records inscribed into the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

This was a significant achievement as the University of Adelaide is the first university in Australia to have its historical administrative records recognised by this prestigious international programme.

In 2015, records from the University Archives were again recognised with a second inscription onto the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register as a result of a joint nomination with the South Australian Museum for the records of the Board for Anthropological Research.

The Board for Anthropological Research collections document approximately 5500 Australian Indigenous people from the period when multidisciplinary teams of scientists from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum travelled to Central Australia - as well as to missions and ration stations across the country - recording empirical evidence of anthropological, sociological and cultural data that included linguistics, kinship relationship to the land and spirituality.

The collections document the history of those Indigenous people as well as the technology, instruments and methodology used in anthropological field survey research at the time.

Since the 1980s Australian Indigenous people have accessed the collections regularly to confirm identity for Native Title and language and culture revival. They also remain critically important for multi-disciplinary research at the international level.

The University of Adelaide holds the records relating to the establishment of the Board for Anthropological Research and associated committee minutes and papers as well as records of the longitudinal studies undertaken at Yuendumu and Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory and Kalumburu in the Kimberley region.

The South Australian Museum has the records relating to data collection from most of the Board's forty seven expeditions.

The records date from 1923 until 1974 when the Board for Anthropological Research changed its name to the Board of Aboriginal Studies.

  • Records inscribed that are held by the University Archives include:

    •  Series 52 Board for Anthropological Research Requisition Books [1966-1978]
      The series contains records that provide information on requests for Board films and the details of copies supplied.
    • Series 212 Board of Aboriginal Studies Minutes [1926-1975]
      The series consists of the minutes of the Board for Anthropological Research which later became the Board of Aboriginal Studies. Volume 3 contains additional copies of minutes for 1956-1964 and includes papers regarding efforts to establish a Chair of Anthropology in 1964.
    • Series 213 Board of Aboriginal Studies Correspondence, Reports and Publications [1930-1981]
    • The series includes reports by T G H Strehlow and Professor A Abbie as well as papers relating to 1930's expeditions to Macdonald Downs, Cockatoo Creek, Mt Liebig and the Diamantina River. There is also general correspondence and publications.
    • Series 214 Board of Aboriginal Studies Financial Statements of Expeditions [1930-1936]
      The series consists of statements for each expedition funded by the Board between 1930-1936. They include detailed lists of stores and equipment purchased or hired.
    • Series 1589 Yuendumu Longitudinal Study Records
      The records were collated by University researchers while conducting a longitudinal physical and anthropological study at Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal reserve in Central Australia. They are located in the Dental Sciences area of the Dental Hospital and all access requests are to be referred to the School.
    • Series 1593 Kalumburu General Field Records [1963]
      The series consists of a bound volume of field record sheets completed during the 1963 dental study of Indigenous residents of Kalumburu in the East Kimberley area. It is the northernmost settlement in Western Australia. The record sheets contain personal details and physical examination observations and comments.
    •  Series 1594 Haasts Bluff Dental Observations [1956]
      The series consists of recordings from the 1956 dental survey of residents of Haasts Bluff, also known as Ikuntji, which is an Indigenous Australian community in Central Australia, a region of the Northern Territory. The community is located 227 kilometres west of Alice Springs.

2013 Inscription recognises the Administrative Records of the University of Adelaide


The University of Adelaide Registrar's Minutes, Correspondence, Reference Files, Registers and lndexes [1872-1924] document the conception and unfolding of an audacious vision of tertiary education for the Colony of South Australia when its population numbered only 30,000. The records were meticulously collated, created and controlled by the Registrar of the University of Adelaide during the University's establishment and first fifty years. The comprehensiveness and completeness of this collection provide unique insight into the origins of higher education in Australia's first free settler colony illustrating the impact of the University in implementing a series of progressive social reforms and showcasing the forward thinking attitudes within the liberal, religiously tolerant meritocracy which flourished in Adelaide.

The significance of the University of Adelaide Registrar's Correspondence, Reference Files, Registers and lndexes [1874-1924] provides evidence of the unique qualities of both the institution and the state in which it was founded, as well as broader national and international social and cultural themes. They are an exemplar of an exhaustively documented tertiary institution, and a window on its wider historical and community context.

  • The inscribed records series include:

    • Series 7 Registrar's Department Correspondence Record [1890-1912]

      4 bound volumes [related to Series 200, previous to Series 1391]

      The series consists of bound volumes of an annual alphabetical (by name of correspondent) index to the earlier dockets in Series 200. lt records the name of writer, number and year of docket, subject, reference to Council or Committee meeting, page and volume of letter book if a reply was generated.
    • Series 11 University Association Minute Book [1872-1875]

      1 volume

      The series consists of the minutes of the University Association which was constituted in 1872 to promote the establishment of a university in Adelaide. The Association's aims were to secure further members and financial support, appoint professors and lecturers, arrange classes and to establish the university formally by Act of Parliament. Following the passage of the Bill in November 1874, the University Council was appointed and the Association lapsed, holding a final meeting in May 1875 to formally disband itself and authorise transfer of its records to the newly established University.
    • Series 84 Registrar's Envelope Reference Book lndex [1876-1882]

      1 volume [related to Series 169]

      The series consists of an index to the Registrar's correspondence (Series 169) as arranged in subjects (envelopes) between 1876 and 1882.
    • Series 169 Registrar's Correspondence [1874-1923]

      444 envelopes [related to Series 84 and Series 280]

      This series consists of a roughly chronological collection of envelopes arranged primarily by subject. Record formats include correspondence, reports, drafts, minutes, sketches and drawings, lists, rough notes and newscuttings. Also included are records of the University Association relating to negotiations prior to and at the time of establishment of the University of Adelaide. Topics cover all aspects of operation until 1924.

      The original envelope system has been retained with the assistance of the list of envelopes provided in Series 84. After the introduction of the docket system in 1886 (Series 200) the procedure of keeping envelopes containing confidential reports and other papers on particular matters, titled but without any numbering system (and apparently without any index or register) was simultaneously retained (Series 169 and 280) until 1924 when a new series of letter books was introduced by the newly appointed Registrar, Frederick Eardley.
    • Series 200 Registrar's Correspondence [Dockets] [1886-1924]*

      [*series extends past the nominated timeframe]

      31,100 (of 56,310) dockets [related to Series 7 and Series 1391]

      The series consists of the Registrar's correspondence files which were known as dockets and cover all aspects of the operation of the University. They are indexed from 1890 to 1912 in an alphabetical index to dockets (Series 7) and subsequently by a system of index cards retained in the Archives Office. Correspondence registers (Series 1391) provide a listing by annual/sequential number.
    • Series 280 Registrar's Reference Files [1874-1924]*

      [*series extends past the nominated timeframe]

      271 (of 494) envelopes [related to Series 169]

      The series consists of files (originally in numbered envelopes and document boxes) containing notes, copies of deeds, correspondence, minutes, reports and circulars relating to individual matters including bequests, buildings, staff, contracts, associations, agreements and events.
    • Series 738 Registrar's Miscellaneous Correspondence [1874-1924]

      71 folders

      The series consists of various correspondence and related records originally arranged by date. Similar to the reference files of Series 280, it covers various topics including course information, student statistics, financial records, appointments, examinations, scholarships, equipment acquisition, event arrangements, government relations and responses to public enquiries.
    • Series 1391 Registrar's Correspondence Registers [1901-1924]*

      [*series extends past the nominated timeframe]

      8 (of 20) volumes [related to Series 200, subsequent to Series 7]

      The registers provide a listing of the correspondence dockets (Series 200) and are arranged in annual/sequential numbers with correspondents' names and addresses.