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FEATURE ARTICLE 1: ARCHIVES FACT SHEET
Under the ABS' Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications (ACLC) (cat. no. 4902.0) an archive is defined as 'a unit (organisation) whose primary function is the permanent (or long term) preservation of unique records, selected because of their administrative, financial, legal, evidential or other information value, which are generally no longer required for the conduct of current activities by government agencies, non-government organisations or private individuals'. This definition is used within this article.
Archives provide a range of services including the description and preservation of archival material and the provision of archival research and reference facilities and assistance. As such, they offer a rich resource for study and enquiry. Archives differ from libraries in that library material is usually published, with multiple copies in existence whereas archives hold original records, which are often unique and usually irreplaceable (Archives of Australia, 2007). Each record held in an archive is identified as having enduring value whether it be administrative, research, evidential, legal, financial or visual.
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HOW MANY ARCHIVES ARE THERE IN AUSTRALIA?
The most recent ABS data on archives was collected in the 2003-04 Public Libraries Survey. The scope of this survey included government archival service organisations which were open to the public. Archives with restricted access including those operated by educational institutions (universities and schools) and those operated privately by businesses and organisations were excluded. Results published in Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (ABS cat. no. 8561.0) reveal a total of 8 national, state and territory archive organisations operating in 21 locations at the end of June 2004.
There are many more archive organisations operating in Australia that are outside the scope of the ABS survey. Most of these are listed in directories on websites such as the Archives of Australia's http://www.archivenet.gov.au and the Australian Society of Archivists' http://www.archivists.org.au.
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HOW MANY PEOPLE USE ARCHIVES?
As shown in Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (ABS cat. no. 8561.0) the number of people visiting archival search rooms in the 8 national, state and territory archive organisations has increased from 94,000 in 1999-2000 to 137,000 in 2003-04. This represents an annual average increase of 9.9%. The number of recorded enquiries and requests for information at these archive organisations has also increased from 218,000 in 1999-2000 to 245,000 in 2003-04, an annual average increase of 2.2%.
Archives may also hold 'special exhibitions' - defined as temporary exhibitions generally taking place for less than three months which are developed in-house or are touring or imported exhibitions. The Public Libraries Survey revealed that archives held 10 special exhibitions in 2003-04, however attendance figures for these exhibitions were not collected separately.
The Council of Australasian Archives and Record Authorities (CAARA) comprises the heads of ten government archive authorities in Australia and New Zealand. Nine of these member organisations are from the Commonwealth of Australia and its states and territories and one is from New Zealand. CAARA provides an alternate source of data through an annual survey of these member organisations and a five-yearly survey of the broader archives domain. Annual surveys collect a range of data however not all data items are available from each organisation. The most recent published data from an annual survey is for the year ending 30 June, 2005. In this year, eight of CAARA's nine Australian member organisations provided data showing a combined total of 71,700 visits and approximately 234,030 recorded enquiries. The number of unique visits to member organisations' websites is also sought by CAARA. In 2005, six Australian organisations provided this data, and combined, they reported over 8,074,740 unique visits. The results of ABS and CAARA surveys are not comparable due to differences in survey methodology.
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HOW MANY ITEMS ARE HELD IN ARCHIVES?
Archival records come in a range of formats such as paper, parchment, photographs, films and emails with the type of records held often influenced by the nature and purpose of an archive. Government archives, for example, may contain electoral rolls, court rulings and statutes. Organisational or business archives may store meeting minutes, official correspondence and financial records while personal archives may hold photographs, letters and diaries.
Due to their nature, the items held in archives are often measured in terms of metres, that is how many metres of shelf space they take up. At the end of June 2004, archival holdings at the 8 national, state and territory archive organisations reported in the ABS publication Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0) totalled 629,100 metres. This was down from 688,000 metres in 1999-2000.
Council of Australasian Archives and Record Authorities statistics for 2005 show that at the end of June, its nine Australian member organisations recorded holdings that totalled approximately 547,840 metres, compared to 536,450 at the beginning of the year. These figures are not comparable with those of the ABS due to differences in survey methodology.
Archives are facing an emerging challenge in that the majority of newly created information and records are digital. In addition, many archive organisations are now digitising existing non-digital records to enable the public to easily access archival material on-line. As described in the discussion paper 'Digital archiving in the 21st century' (Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities, 2006), this presents a challenge in terms of designing and implementing methods for selecting, creating, acquiring, describing and delivering access to digital collections. This may require a complete reinvention of systems, approaches and practices in collecting organisations.
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HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK AS ARCHIVISTS OR IN ARCHIVE ORGANISATIONS?
Information on the number of people employed as archivists in their main job is available in the ABS publication Employment in Culture, 2006 (cat. no. 6273.0) which presents data collected in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The Census collects data from persons on their main job, that is, the one in which they worked the most hours during the week prior to the Census. Figures show that the number of people employed as archivists, regardless of their place of employment, has increased by 40% between 1996 and 2006.
Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (ABS cat. no. 8561.0) provides information on the number of employees and volunteers working in archive organisations. According to this report, the number of paid employees at the 8 national, state and territory archive organisations increased 7% from 756 at the end of June, 2000 to 811 at the end of June, 2004. A further 122 volunteers worked a combined total of 1,886 hours in archive organisations during the month of June 2004. In addition to archivists, these figures include other types of work utilised in archive organisations such as administrative and managerial occupations.
Council of Australasian Archives and Record Authorities statistics show that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions filled in its nine Australian member organisations increased from 668 at the end of June, 2003 to 720 at the end of June, 2005. These figures are not comparable with those of the ABS due to differences in survey methodology. For example, CAARA counts FTE employees, whereas the ABS count the total number of persons employed.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF ARCHIVISTS
Employment in Culture, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 6273.0) reveals some characteristics of the 896 people employed as archivists in their main job in the week prior to Census night in August, 2006.
Between 1996 and 2006, the degree to which women outnumber men in this occupation has increased. In 2006, 63% of archivists were female and 37% male, compared with 60% and 40% in 1996.
In 2006, almost half (48%) of all people working as archivists were aged between 35 and 54 with a further 30% aged 55 and over.
State or Territory of Usual Residence
New South Wales employed the highest number of archivists in 2006 at 302. This represents 34% of all archivists in Australia. A further 227 (25%) were from Victoria and 108 (12%) were from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The remaining states and territories employed under 100 archivists with the Northern Territory employing the least.
It is interesting to note the high proportion (12%) of archivists employed in the ACT when compared to its small population (1.6% of Australia's total population in 2006). This may be attributed to the location of the National Archives of Australia's head office and exhibition spaces in Canberra.
Approximately 79% of archivists were born in Australia while 19% were born overseas (the remaining 2% either did not state their country of birth adequately or at all). Of those archivists born in Australia, almost all (99%) were non-Indigenous and of those born overseas, 57% came from a main English speaking country.
The majority of archivists (58%) worked full time hours (over 35 hours per week) in the week prior to Census Night.
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HOW ARE ARCHIVES FUNDED?
The 8 national, state and territory archive organisations covered in Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (ABS cat. no. 8561.0) reported total income of $87.2m in 1999-2000. This rose to $109.1m in 2003-04, representing an average annual increase of 5.8%. The vast majority of this income came from government funding ($97.9m) while the remainder came from services to clients ($10.4m) and other sources ($0.7m).
Cultural Funding by Government, Australia (ABS cat. no. 4183.0) details the amount of government funding, at all levels, for arts and cultural activities, facilities and services. It reports that between 1998-99 and 2001-02, Australian government funding of archives more than doubled, increasing from $31.1m to $62.4m. Since then, the amount of funding increased at a much slower rate to reach $67.4m in 2005-06 before falling slightly to $66.5m in 2006-07. This is the only decline in Australian government funding of archives recorded between 1998-99 and 2006-07.
State and territory government funding of archives has continually fluctuated. The amount of funding peaked in 2004-05 at $61.4m. This was mainly due to funding from the New South Wales government which almost doubled between 2003-04 ($14.8m) and 2004-05 ($28.2m) due to major capital expenditure before returning to $15.6m in 2005-06. Since 2004-05, funding has fallen to $34.8m in 2006-07, representing a 43% decline. This is the lowest amount of state and territory government archives funding recorded between 1998-99 and 2006-07.
Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4183.0) further reports that in 2006-07, Queensland provided the largest amount of funding to archives of any Australian state or territory government at $8.3m ($2.02 per person) while the Australian Capital Territory government provided the lowest amount at $0.1m ($0.39 per person). Analysis of per person funding, which adjusts for the varying populations of Australia's states and territories reveals that the Northern Territory provided the highest amount of funding to archives per person at $6.25 (more than three times the national average of $1.67), while the Australian Capital Territory provided the lowest ($0.39).
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WHERE CAN I FIND FURTHER INFORMATION?
Additional information on archives can be obtained by contacting archive organisations and visiting their websites:
The Archives of Australia's website http://www.archivenet.gov.au acts as a gateway for exploring many Australian archive related sites and resources.
The results of the Council of Australasian Archives and Record Authorities surveys, as well as much more information on archives, is available on-line at http://www.caara.org.au.
The Australian Society of Archivists website http://www.archivists.org.au is another useful resource, containing information about archivists and the work that they do.
The National Archives of Australia is the central repository for the valuable records of the Australian government. Information is available at http://www.naa.gov.au.
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Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications, cat. no. 4902.0, ABS, Canberra
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, cat. no. 4183.0, ABS, Canberra
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Employment in Culture, 2006, cat. no. 6273.0, ABS, Canberra
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04, cat. no. 8561.0, ABS, Canberra
Archives of Australia, http://www.archivenet.gov.au
Australian Society of Archivists, http://www.archivists.org.au
Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities, http://www.caara.org.au
Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities, ‘Digital archiving in the 21st century’, 2006, viewed 1/05/2008, http://www.caara.org.au/Publications/DigitalArchiving21C.pdf
National Archives of Australia, http://www.naa.gov.au
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