Archives Office of Tasmania

Archives Office of Tasmania search room, 1970 (AOT, PH30/1/9793)

As early as April 1826 Lt-Governor George Arthur referred to those 'valuable Archives which in time are objects in every community of vital importance to the People at large'. During the next hundred years there was sporadic government consideration about what to do with its accumulating records, and from the early 1920s Amelia Wayn, whose indexing legacy remains in the Archives Office, was employed as an indexer and archivist working on some of the government's older records.

Through the 1930s there was some public discussion among historians and others about the potential vulnerability of the state's archives, and in 1940 the government encouraged Professor RM Crawford to report on the situation. His report persuaded the government of the need for legislation. In 1943 the Public Records Act was passed to deal with the preservation of records identified as the state's archives, access to them, and the authorised destruction of those considered to be of value for a shorter period only. A position of Archives Officer was established, although it was not until 1951 that Bob Sharman was formally appointed and with his assistant, and later successor, Peter Eldershaw, laid the foundations of the on-going government archival programme. This was initially as an 'Archives Section' in the State Library Department, but in 1965 legislation established the Archives Office of Tasmania as an independent formal organisation.

Further legislative revision in 1983 resulted in the current Act which maintained the primary elements of preservation of the state's archives and free public access, and, through the position of State Archivist, independent regulation of state and local government record-keeping and the retention and destruction of records, which remain the cornerstones of the Archives Office's functions.

Ian Pearce