Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy and the eScholarship Research Centre celebrate 30 years

March 15 / 154

Two pictures of Gavan McCarthy and Professor Rod Home taken 30 years apart. The image on the left is from 1991, courtesy Australian Science Archives Project, 1991. The recent photo was taken by Leo Konstantelos.
Two pictures of Gavan McCarthy and Professor Rod Home taken 30 years apart. The image on the left is from 1991, courtesy Australian Science Archives Project, 1991. The recent photo was taken by Leo Konstantelos.

Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy, director of the University’s eScholarship Research Centre (ESRC), recently recognised his – and the Centre’s – thirtieth anniversary with a celebratory lunch attended by colleagues past and present.

An initiative of Professor Rod Home, the ESRC began life on 4 March 1985 as the Australian Science Archives Project (ASAP). Gavan was appointed the Project’s inaugural senior archivist. As good archivists Rod and Gavan ensured that the early documents recording the history of the Project were kept, documented, and easily locatable for staff preparing for the anniversary.

Highlights included a minimalist response from the then Dean of Arts to Professor Home’s invitation to support his idea and join the Advisory Board: ‘Science Archives: Dear Rod, I do agree. Geoff Blainey’!

Guests at the celebration lunch were not surprised to see two emerging themes in the archived documents – the perennial search for funding, and the amount of time spent by the senior archivist travelling around the world (on a shoestring, of course).

The Centre’s first progress report for March-August 1985 identified the natural consequence of the ASAP’s non-custodial model of archival work – the importance of maintaining a biographical and bibliographical ‘file data base’ of Australian scientists. This became the online resource ‘The Encyclopedia of Australian Science’ which celebrated twenty years on the web in 2014 (http://www.eoas.info/).

Over its 30-year history, the ESRC has collaborated with a wide range of organisations in Australia and internationally. Gavan and his team have published many guides to the archival records of scientists and others, including Nobel Laureate Frank Macfarlane Burnet, Antarctic explorer Phillip Garth Law and pollster Irving Saulwick. 

Underpinned by the intellectual model of the original ‘file data base’, software developed by Centre staff has been used to create a wide range of online knowledge spaces including the Australian Women’s Register (a collaboration with the National Foundation for Australian Women, Find and Connect (a web resource for Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants), and ATNS, the Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements database.

Story by Helen Morgan and Cate O’Neill.

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