2014 Margaret Medcalf Award

Penelope Hetherington's book The Marriage Knot wins the 2014 Margaret Medcalf Award.


The 2014 Margaret Medcalf Award was presented on 18 June 2014 to University of Western Australia history research fellow Penelope Hetherington for her book on marriage and divorce in colonial Western Australia.


The Marriage Knot: Marriage & divorce in colonial Western Australia 1829–1900 looks at the State’s early legislative changes to marriage and divorce. At the presentation ceremony Culture and Arts Minister John Day said the book, which had been meticulously researched, would form an excellent reference work on a topic that little had been written about. “The Margaret Medcalf Award also recognises the work of Western Australia’s State Records Office and the role of archives in general,” Mr Day said.  


A Special Commendation was also presented to author Annie Boyd for her book Koombana Days, which documents the loss of the S.S. Koombana in a cyclone off the North West coast in March 1912.

The Marriage Knot was published by UWA Publishing while Fremantle Press published Koombana Days.

This year six nominations were received for the Award and the judging panel comprised State Records Commissioner Justine McDermott, State Archivist Cathrin Cassarchis, and Professor Jenny Gregory AM from the University of Western Australia.


The Margaret Medcalf Award

This annual Award rewards excellence in referencing and research of archival materials. Named after Margaret Medcalf OAM, the second State Archivist for Western Australia (from 1971 to 1989), it honours her valuable contribution to the development of archives in Western Australia. Works nominated for the Award must demonstrate use of archival sources, and substantial (but not necessarily exclusive) use of State Archives held by the State Records Office. The State Records Commission established the Margaret Medcalf Award in 2003.


The Award is a prize of $1000, which is shared if there is more than one winner of the Award.


Nominated works may be fiction or non-fiction and may comprise any format (i.e. book, article, conference paper, website, index, etc). Nominated works may be published or unpublished.


Nominations may be submitted by anyone, including the author of the work. Nominated works must have been completed or published during the previous calendar year (2013).


The judging panel for the Award comprises a member of the State Records Commission, the State Archivist and Executive Director State Records and a well-known WA-based historian.


The judging criteria for the Award are:


Level of use of the State archives collection:
How much does the work rely on archival sources for its argument? What proportion of the cited works are State archives?


Use of referencing:
How well does the work reference the sources in the State archives collection? How easy would it be to locate the archival sources the author references? 

Level of contribution to knowledge (historical, cultural, heritage, etc). 

Original use of the State archives collection: Does the work use new archival material or use different sources to answer questions or highlight issues? Is well known archival material dealt with in a new or different way? 

Presentation: How well has the work been crafted? How well does it stimulate interest in the material? Does the work have community appeal?


N.B. The front page banner image is from the 2014 Margaret Medcalf Award presentation, showing (from left to right) 2014 Award winner Dr Penelope Hetherington, Annie Boyd (Special Commendation), Margaret Medcalf OAM, Hon. John Day MLA Minister for Culture and the Arts.