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Last week General Motors announced the end of the Holden brand in Australia, but the history of this iconic brand from its beginnings as a South Australian company is safely held at the State Library of South Australia. 

The State Library is rich in treasures and collections that tell the story of South Australia. It plays an important role in keeping these memories and stories alive so current and future generations will always have access to them. 

Geoff Strempel, Director State Library of South Australia says:

“We have a long and proud association with Holden dating back to 1997 when they started donating historic material to the Library. However the archive dates back to 1850s, when James Alexander Holden first arrived in South Australia and started his saddlery business in Adelaide.” 

The Holden Collection includes the archival records of GM Holden Ltd and Holden’s various iterations, including J.A. Holden & Co, Holden & Frost Limited, and Holden's Motor Body Builders Limited. For 75 years Holden was operating in South Australia as its own entity, before becoming an official part of General Motors. 

The Collection is extensive and diverse and includes artefacts, papers, business ledgers, plans, promotional material, photographs and magazines. Spanning over 180 metres of shelving, the Collection is as much an industrial history of Australia, as it is a social history of almost 170 years. Collection examples include: 

  • a letter from Holden & Frost dated 1899 regarding the fit-out of the South Australian Boer War contingent with saddles 
  • materials relating to car models, and General Motors Holden’s war production during World War Two 
  • over 800 films, videos and sound recordings including the original sound discs of the General Motors Hour radio series. 

We continue to work with the Holden Heritage team of retired Holden engineers and others to make sure South Australia’s significant participation in the automotive industry is preserved and accessible to the public. Late last year we collected hundreds of rolled Holden engineering tooling drawings from the decommissioned Holden Plant at Elizabeth to add to the Collection. The Holden Heritage team are comforted to know that the heritage of the company which formed such a large part of their lives is being cared for and preserved for the long term by the State Library.

Media enquiries

Geoff Strempel
Director State Library of South Australia
Phone: 08 8207 7204
Mobile: 0416 041 743

Download the media release