About Us

The University Archives preserves the rich history of South Australia's foremost educational institution.

A brief history

In the early 1970s the approaching centenary of the University of Adelaide’s 1874 foundation brought into focus the status and condition of the valuable historic records of Australia’s third oldest and arguably most progressive tertiary institution.

Reader in History, Dr John Tregenza, recommended to the Registrar that an archival program independent of the Barr Smith Library be established. He envisaged it to be overseen by a trained archivist who would conduct an initial survey of the records. This was followed up by Dr Wilf Prest, also of the Department of History, who argued that the appointment of a Registry-based archivist and the development of a University-wide policy on records preservation was a matter of urgency given the 'deplorable conditions' in which the records were housed in the basement of the Mitchell Building. However at that time, the University was unable to find the funds to resource an archives program.

Lobbying continued throughout the next decade and, with added support from the University Librarian E J Wainwright and Registrar Frank O’Neil, funding was finally provided through the Internal Development Fund for hiring of a University Archivist for an initial period of two years. Approved in September 1982, this was almost exactly a decade after Dr Tregenza had first brought the plight of the University’s historic records to the attention of the University administration.

The University’s first official Archivist, Susan Woodburn, was appointed in January 1983, and creation of the University Archives commenced.

Our objectives

The University Archives aims to preserve and provide access to an authentic record of the people, programmes and governance of the University of Adelaide. It provides archival management for records in support of the administrative, teaching, research, and wider community interests of the University.

The Archives seeks to:

  • facilitate University compliance with the State Records Act 1997
  • select only those records that best document the University and, therefore, allow the controlled disposal of records not of enduring value
  • ensure the reliability of evidence through maintenance of the context and order of the archival records entrusted to its care
  • create and maintain electronic and hard-copy descriptive tools that provide intellectual and administrative control of the records
  • provide a physical environment for records that ensures their long-term viability and usefulness
  • respond to the needs of staff, students and the general public for historical evidence and information.


UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register

The University of Adelaide has been recognised with two inscriptions on the UNESCO 'Memory of the World' Register.

UNESCO Register