Re-using Records

Lise Summers Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 15:35 Have you ever wondered what happens to the records that are sent to the State Records Office?  Who uses them and why? Have you ever wondered how that file came to be in the State archives collection, and who else looks at them?   State archives are those records identified by government organisations in their Disposal Authories ( as an 'A' for State Archive, because they having ongoing value to the Government and community of Western Australia, and will be kept permanently.  Most State archives must be transferred to the State Records Office at some stage, and become part of the State archives collection. As part of the collection they are available for use by government organizations and the community. These records may continue to be used for the original business purpose that created them, but they may also be re-used in a number of different ways – and we don’t necessarily mean eating them!   Researchers using the State archives collection have used probate files, health registers, criminal files, employee records and local government ratebooks for family history and Native Title research.  School records provide evidence of residency for passport applications, and police files have been used in cold case reviews.  Heritage consultants and train enthusiasts have used the Western Australian Government Railways collections to good effect, and students and academics have delved into topics such as the history of polio, of traffic accidents, poor houses and power stations.   But records can be re-used before they come to the State Records Office.  Throughout Australia, and internationally, there is a call for a greater use of and greater accessibility to government data, through mashups, creative commons licencing and linked open data.  The State Records Office continues to maintain a watching brief in many of these areas, and contributes at a national level via the Australian Digital Records Initiative.   Next week, as part of National Recycling Week, we are encouraging State and Local Government organisations to review the records they hold, using their Retention and Disposal schedules (R&Ds), to determine which records are archives, which will eventually be transferred to the State archives collection for re-use by researchers. Let us know how well you are going in promoting your R&D by writing to us on Facebook or on twitter (@archives_wa #R&Duse).   Lise Summers Senior Archivist