National Archives tackles future challenges

Media release: Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The National Archives has been busy over the past year, with a number of significant achievements as well as taking important steps to tackle key challenges it is facing, according to its 2011–12 annual report, tabled in Parliament today.

'The first key challenge is assisting more than 200 Australian Government agencies to capture and manage the sheer volume of digital records created in the course of government business today. In turn, the National Archives needs to preserve the records that are identified as having enduring national significance to ensure they are available to future generations of Australians,' said Director-General David Fricker.

'We are expecting more than 10.7 million gigabytes of information to be generated in agencies by 2014 – with an estimated 5 per cent of these records coming to the National Archives.'

To help meet the digital challenge, the National Archives is leading implementation of the government's Digital Transition Policy released in July 2011. For Australian Government agencies, this policy means moving from paper-based to digital information and records management by the end of 2015.

The National Archives has rolled out a digital capability development program and released a Digital Continuity Plan for government agencies – to assist them to achieve this important target.

'With more than 40 million records already in our archival collection, the second challenge is to ensure the increasing numbers of both digital and non-digital records that we receive are also preserved well for future generations,' Mr Fricker said.

To manage the continuing load of paper, digital and audiovisual records, the National Archives continues to progress its preservation facility project, with a preferred site identified in Mitchell, ACT for a new purpose-built repository.

This commitment was highlighted when the National Archives was honoured with an international award from the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, to acknowledge its leading role in digital preservation – the US$30,000 UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize.

The prize money, donated by the Republic of Korea, will be used in the coming year to host a conservation student as an intern.

In announcing the prize, UNESCO described the National Archives as 'a world leader in many areas, notably that of digital preservation'. The announcement also praised the National Archives for sharing with others 'the fruit of its own research and development by making available open source tools for digital preservation'.

Mr Fricker stressed that archival records are only of value to the nation if people have easy access to them. The National Archives has continued to put in place a number of initiatives to improve access to records and engage the community.

'One of our major goals is to provide innovative ways for people to engage with the collection, through exhibitions, publications, public events, education programs and online services,' he said.

To support this, the National Archives has selected a new audiovisual archives management system, which will over time improve the indexing of, and access to, its extensive collection. Audiovisual content includes material from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Special Broadcasting Service, Department of Defence, Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Office of Film and Literature Classification, Australian Film Television and Radio School, Australian Antarctic Division, Royal Commissions, and former Prime Ministers Harold Holt, Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating and John Howard.

'We're pleased that 94,000 people viewed our five touring exhibitions across Australia last year – including Traversing Antarctica: the Australian experience. And increasing numbers of Australians are viewing our collection online and downloading the information they require from the comfort of home.'

Destination: Australia – sharing our post-war migrant stories is one example of this community engagement. The website contains 20,000 photographs of migrants from various countries who arrived at different ports around Australia after World War II. Visitors to the site can search using family names, places of origin, migrant hostels, ports of arrival or other terms that may identify a group of friends – and add their stories about arriving and living in Australia.

Further information:

Contact information

  • Shaun Rohrlach (Director, Access Programs)
    t (02) 6212 3990 m 0434 664 621 e
  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e

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