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September 19, 2019

Meet the man who holds Deakin’s history: Archivist Antony Catrice

The library is not just responsible for four campus buildings, 24-hour online databases and chat services, hundreds of thousands of collection items, copyright guidance and research support for the University – we also maintain the historical archives for the entire institution.

Deakin University’s relatively short, yet impressive, history is held in the hands of University Archivist, Antony Catrice, from the Information and Records Services division, has been overseeing Deakin’s tens of thousands of archives for over 25 years.

From administrative records of staff and offices, to recordings of significant people associated with the University, Deakin archives go back over 100 years, with the earliest items dated 1915.

The University Archives collects and maintains records relating to Deakin and its predecessor institutions that have permanent value – be it for legal, research, teaching or historic reasons.   

Staff, students and the public are encouraged to access the archives, and Antony has been helping faculty members lost amongst the boxes since 1993.

Fresh from his Graduate Diploma in Information Management, Antony first thought his position at Deakin would be temporary.

“Deakin was still a very young University at the time and hadn’t yet incorporated a sound records management culture. In a competitive and niche field, Deakin offered a rare opportunity for a recent graduate – there was a lot to do,” he says.

Antony Catrice with AV Archive

Antony at Deakin’s purpose built archive for audio visual materials

The job quickly grew, and Antony developed a passion for helping staff and students access Deakin’s history.

“It’s gotten more interesting and more supported by the University – it’s a good time,” he says.

“The job of archiving is important for many reasons. On one level, it’s about maintaining evidence of transactions – an essential but legalistic vision. Archives ensure accountability and underpin democracy.

“Maintaining archives also has an historical-cultural function, supporting memories of individuals, institutions and societies. We help translate primary sources into sources of meaning for users.”

An average day in your life?

“I spend a lot of time retrieving files and items for users, including staff, students, and the public, and finding the answers to why things were done a certain way in the past. I also spend time processing, cataloguing and digitising archives to ensure their preservation and ongoing access.”

Antony Catrice at his desk

Antony in his office (Building EA) at Melbourne Burwood Campus

What kind of archives are held across the Burwood and Geelong Waterfront campuses?

“Mostly official records of the University, kept for their ongoing administrative value, legal compliance and a community expectation that the University preserves its history.

“The archives also accept records of significant people associated with the University, such as Max Charlesworth, founding Dean of Humanities at Deakin. His records were donated by his family, and they document an exceptional career as an Australian philosopher and public intellectual.

“Other records document social and student life at Deakin. For example, we have Student Association records going back to 1954 – pre-dating Deakin and established in previous institutions.”

When is it deemed an item should be archived?

“Ideally, at the time of creation; in reality, decisions around archiving are often made when someone wants to make space and clear out old cupboards.”  

How long are items archived for?

“The Public Records Office of Victoria outlines retention periods for all records of Victorian public agencies including universities. If there are items that have special value to Deakin, we can choose to keep them. For example, we chose to retain recordings of Deakin’s distance education programmes from the ’70s, because it was such a defining feature of the University.”

How has archiving evolved with the digital era?

“Digital technologies continue to transform the nature of the record, and the way people and organisations operate. Twenty-five years ago, we worked solely in hard copy and we applied consistent methodology to all records. Now, we have to constantly adapt to new technologies – a challenge we don’t always win.

“Many records stored on redundant technologies have been lost. The challenge is to capture and ensure the integrity, authenticity and preservation of digital records into the future.

“Typically, hardcopy records remain as hardcopy. When an item is publicly available and of high public interest, it will be digitised and made available online. An item may also be digitised if the item is fragile or stored on redundant media.” 

Exciting projects you are currently working on?

“I’m currently working through a recently donated AV collection, which includes videos and audio of official events and classes at Deakin, with material going back to the 1970s. Amongst these are speeches by Malcolm Turnbull and Max Charlesworth, and numerous other politicians, scholars and artists. I’m hoping to finish listing the items by the end of the year, and put digital versions of important finds online.

“I’m also heavily involved in student projects requiring archived collections. Recently, I helped student intern Olivia Brewer find items for the Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies 40th anniversary – a hands on process of digging through history that both Olivia and I really enjoyed.”

Antony Catrice and Olivia Brewer

Antony and student intern Olivia Brewer searched the archives for the Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies 40th anniversary

Tell us about a really memorable find of your career.

“Items documenting the full working history of the old Prahran Technical School were found in a room that had been abandoned and locked for more than twenty years. The collection demonstrated the institute’s full bureaucratic history, from its establishment in 1915 until its evolution as a College of Advanced Education in 1974.  

“The archives were found in the early 90s behind a door nailed shut in the Prahran Mechanic’s Institute building, and only discovered because of a need to make space. They were donated to Deakin because they complemented our existing collections so well.”

If you would like to access Deakin’s archives, you can do so here. 

If you are unsure if an item should be archived, you can get more information here or email Antony directly. 

Originally published by Network, August 2019

By Student Intern Dev Nelson and Katelyn Swallow, Internal Content Coordinator, Media Relations & Corporate Communications

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