State Library of South Australia

Archival Frequently Asked Questions

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 What does the library collect?

The State Library of SA is keen to collect archival and unpublished material which represents South Australia's people, places and events, and provide evidence of cultural, political, economic and social life over time.

We are interested not only in the records of public figures, but also in records that show what ordinary individuals and families did in their daily lives. These personal stories reflect society's values and aspirations at a particular time in history. The types of materials below are often valuable, but these lists are incomplete and not definitive.

Private Record Groups: Personal and Family papers which include (but are not limited to):

  • Letters and correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Home movies, films and videos
  • Sound recordings
  • Diaries, scrapbooks and journals

Society Record Groups: Papers of Clubs, non-government schools and not-for-profit organizations which include (but are not limited to):

  • Meeting minutes
  • Constitution
  • Policies and procedures
  • Correspondence
  • Annual reports
  • Architectural plans, maps and records of property management
  • Records of financial assets
  • Photographs
  • Films, videos and sound recordings

Business Record Groups: Papers of South Australian businesses, both current and past, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Meeting minutes
  • Records relating to the formation of the business and governance papers
  • Correspondence
  • Annual reports
  • Architectural plans, maps and records of property management
  • Records of financial assets
  • Photographs
  • Employment records
  • Promotional material, press releases and in-house newsletters
  • Films, videos and sound recordings

Because the research value of papers and records may be diminished if items are removed or rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact the staff of Collection Development on on (08) 8207 7250 or email us before selecting materials for donation.

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 Why donate?

Your donation will ensure your story becomes part of the larger narrative of South Australia. If your records are accepted they will be transferred to our Archival Collection under a signed donor agreement. They will then be protected for future generations in a secure, climate-controlled environment, and described and catalogued for our website so that our holdings can be seen around the world.

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 I'm interested in donating records to the archives. Where do I start?

The first step is to contact an Archival Field Officer to discuss your records. Please contact Collection Development on (08) 8207 7250 or email us. You can also use our Archival Enquiry form or Reftracker form

You can also find more information about the process in our Archival Donor Pack.

The Archival Field Officer will ask you for biographical information about the person, family or organization that created the records. This could include information about births, deaths and marriages, places lived, occupations, business and personal interests and community involvement. You may also be asked to provide as much context as possible, for example, to help identify and date photographs.

The Field Officer will examine your donation and determine which records are of value to the State Library based on a number of criteria. We prefer that you do not sort the records or disturb the original order without seeking our advice first.

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 Is there paperwork involved in donating my collection?

Yes. When records are first brought in to the State Library for appraisal the donor is issued a delivery receipt. At this time, we also ask if you would like us to return any records we do not keep for the collection or if we have your permission to dispose of them.

All offers of archival records are discussed at an appraisal committee meeting and a final decision is made to accept or decline the material. If the archival records are accepted the donor will be asked to complete and sign a Deed - Deposit of Records template or Deed - Gift of Records template. This document covers the permanent transfer of the records and any conditions the donor many have regarding access, copying and publication.

The Archival Field Officer will be able to help you complete the Deed and answer any of your questions.

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 How do I transfer my records to the State Library for appraisal?

There are a number of ways this can be done.

Make an appointment

You can contact an Archival Field Officer on (08) 8207 7250 or email us to make an appointment to meet here at the State Library. The Archival Field Officer will then write you a delivery receipt and discuss the records with you.

If the record group is large, or if the donor is not able to bring the records in to the Library, the Archival Field Officer can also arrange a donor visit to collect the records and bring archival boxes for packing.

Donors can also collect archival boxes from the Library by appointment and download the box list template to attach to the box.

Phone or email us

If you live interstate or overseas and would like to donate records because they have South Australian content, please contact the Archival Field Officer on phone (08) 8207 7250 or email us to discuss the transfer.

It would be helpful if you can complete the box list template, which is part of the Archival Donor Pack (if appropriate) or attach digital images of the material on offer.

This information will used for the initial appraisal. If the Archival Field Officer feels the records would be of value to our collection, they will discuss delivery options with you.

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 Will the State Library take everything we offer?

Although we might not need everything that may be offered, we welcome the chance to review material. If it is not suitable for the State Library we may be able to suggest another archive or cultural institution to which it could be referred. Please contact us before weeding, discarding or reorganizing your papers and photos.

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 Can I place my collection or archive on deposit?

We are able to accept archives on deposit if they are the records of an organization or business which is still in existence, and we have determined they are a significant addition to our Archival Collection. Donors will be required to sign a Deed - Deposit of Records template. The organization or business still owns the records for as long as they are in business, but they must agree to permanently house the records in the State Library and to allow appropriate access to members of the public.

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 Can I use or borrow my collection after I donate to the archives?

Yes. The State Library provides donors, and any agent authorized by a donor, access to the collection or archive through the Somerville Reading Room during the regular open hours of the Library. Requests to access material can be made through the State Library catalogue.

The State Library can also arrange a special loan for up to three months, if the donor wishes to borrow the material for an event or exhibition, or to copy material for their organization's members. If you wish to arrange a special loan you can contact the Archival Field Officer to discuss the arrangements.

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 How long before my collection is available to members of the public?

Once a record group has been accepted for the Archival Collection, it will be accessioned and made available to the public within a month, presuming there are no access restrictions. Requests to see the accessioned group can be made through the State Library catalogue.

All accessions are eventually fully arranged and described by professional archivists who prepare finding aids or guides which are made available online. The time it takes for this work to be done varies from group to group and depends on a number of factors including the physical condition of the records, formats, access restrictions and size of the collection.

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 What if I don't want people to see part of my archive right away?

The State Library recognizes that sensitive material may, at times, be found within collections. The Archival Field Officer will discuss with the donor the possibility of restricting parts of a collection to protect the privacy of the donor or others. However, since our aim is to make records as accessible as possible to the public, we request a future date for releasing sensitive material be documented in the Deed.

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 Can I donate copies and keep my originals?

The State Library prefers to receive original material as a donation. However, we are willing to consider borrowing material for digitizing at preservation standard if it meets our collecting criteria. Donors can discuss lending material for digitizing with the Archival Field Officer. The amount of time it takes to digitize material depends largely on the format of the records. Digitizing films can take up to five years because of the amount of work involved, as each single frame of film needs to be checked by our Preservation staff.

Alternatively, donors can have copies made by a commercial company to keep for their own purposes before donating the original material to the State Library. Please contact the Archival Field Officer to request the names of suitable commercial businesses.

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 What if some of my files are on computer disks or in electronic format?

The State Library is able accept all formats of records including electronic data and audio-visual material, as long as they meet our selection criteria. Consideration will need to be given to issues of long-term accessibility and preservation.

You can discuss non-standard formats with the Archival Field Officer and read the Guidelines for Transferring Personal Digital Archives to the State Library of SA.

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 Why does the State Library want me to donate copyright?

The State Library encourages copyright holders (who may not always be the donor) to transfer copyright to the Libraries Board because it allows us to assist researchers in their work by making it easier to provide permission to quote from papers in the collection. It also allows us to grant permission for use of the records in publications or documentaries. However, donors are not required to transfer copyright as part of the donation process, and there is provision in the Deed of Gift to retain all or a portion of intellectual property rights.

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 Can you tell me how much papers are worth?

Financial appraisals of collections should only be done by qualified appraisers. The Archival Field Officer can assist donors by providing names and contact details of qualified manuscript appraisers if a professional appraisal seems desirable or necessary.

In certain circumstances it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of an archival collection to the State Library.

The Cultural Gifts Program (previously known as the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme) encourages gifts of significant cultural items to public art galleries, museums and libraries by offering donors a tax deduction for the market value of their gifts, under Subdivision 30-A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

Donations must be accompanied by at least two valuations of the current GST inclusive market value, provided by approved valuers. To discuss making a donation to the State Library under the Cultural Gifts Program, please contact the Manager of Collection Development on phone (08) 8207 7250 or email us.

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 Does the State Library buy archival collections or materials?

From time to time the State Library will purchase archival records and photographs which have been made available through auction catalogues.

The Library is unable to consider any private purchase unless there has been a fair and recent valuation.

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Page last updated: 2:39 PM 18 May 2017

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