Archiving Ausdance National at the National Library of Australia

With about 250 Ausdance National archive boxes now housed at the National Library in Canberra, the work of cataloguing their contents continues.

This week marked a major milestone in this process, with Julie Dyson and Sandra Macarthur-Onslow reaching the 200-box mark in a collection that includes 40 years of Ausdance National’s achievements—submissions, funding applications, letters of support, reports, analysis of the dance sector, projects such as Safe Dance & Dancers’ Transition, strategic plans, minutes, publications, photographs, plus an impressive archive of Australian dance companies, large and small, and independent artists’ ephemera. It’s an amazing and impressive record of a 40-year period in Australian dance history between 1977 and 2017 which we are sure future researchers will find invaluable.

the joys of open plan office spacesJulie Dyson and Sandra Macarthur-Onslow at work at the National Library of Australia.

The archiving process began in 2016 after it was realised that the office would have to be downsized following the loss of Australia Council funding. We reviewed Ausdance’s library holdings that included books, papers, newspaper clippings, reports, submissions and many photographs. We had previously prepared and lodged the archives of the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE), but Ausdance National’s own records presented a much bigger challenge, having been accepted by the NLA for archiving. Unfortunately, the huge book collection had to be disposed of, as the NLA only wanted our records.

Over a six-month period we prepared the first 200 archive boxes and then spent another 9 months (once a week) cataloguing them at the NLA into a searchable database. Then, back at the Ausdance office, we began preparation of the final 50 last November, finally lodging them at the NLA in April this year. We anticipate that cataloguing these will take us another couple of months, and then it’s back to our ‘old’ work of cataloguing other dance holdings at the NLA.

It’s been an exciting and rewarding adventure every Thursday to review Ausdance National’s first 40 years and to recall the wonderful friends and colleagues we worked with in that period.