In 2013, the University of Melbourne acquired the Germaine Greer Archive (at an estimated cost of $3 million, including cataloguing, processing, digitisation and curation). The archive has been collected and conserved by Germaine Greer. In mid-2014 the University Archivist, Dr Katrina Dean, went to Professor Greer’s house in Essex, England, to pack the collection up. This took three weeks. The enormous collection was housed in 150 drawers in dozens of black or wood veneer filing cabinets in either Greer’s office on the first floor of a garage conversion or in an outbuilding described as “the hutch”.
The Greer team
The University of Melbourne has invested significant resources into cataloguing and preserving the Germaine Greer Archive. We worked on physical conservation of fragile paper and born-digital material and have ensured the archive’s contents can be discovered by researchers here and around the world. Phase 1 of the Greer Archive project ran from March 2016-March 2017. Phase II ended in March 2018. By then, the entire archive had been catalogued. The team comprised:
Dr Rachel Buchanan
Between October 2015 and March 2018, Dr Rachel Buchanan was curator, Germaine Greer Archive, at the University of Melbourne Archives. She is the author of Stop Press: the last days of newspapers (Scribe, 2013) and The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget (Huia, 2010). In 2013-14, Rachel was a creative fellow at the State Library of Victoria.
Ms Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is an archivist and librarian and she worked with the Greer Archive from mid-2016 until the end of 2017. She has worked for the trade union movement, universities, most recently as RMIT University Archivist, and on many collections of personal papers. Sarah catalogued the archives of Dr Greer’s major published works and many other series. Sarah holds a Masters of Library and Information Science.
Mr Lachlan Glanville
Between March 2016 and March 2018, Lachlan Glanville was Assistant Archivist on the Germaine Greer Archive. He has worked at the National Library of Australia in the pictures and manuscripts branch and as assistant archivist at RMIT University, and holds a Masters of Information Technology in Library and Information Science.
Ms Kate Hodgetts
Kate Hodgetts is an artist and archivist and she worked on the Greer archive from mid-2016 until March 2018.. Working with Germaine Greer’s archive she has spent many hours listening to and creating time coded summaries for the audio series. Kate also catalogued the photographic series, housing and cataloguing the hundreds of images in that collection and the home movies. Kate has a Masters of Cultural Material Conservation (UoM 2013) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Honours (VCA 2007).
Dr Millie Weber
Millie was an Assistant Archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives, where she worked with manuscript, digital, and audiovisual collections. She catalogued Greer’s Women and Literature series, and together with her colleagues has developed processes to manage born digital and audio materials in Greer’s archive. Millie has a PhD in literary sociology from Monash University, with research interests in publishing history, new media, and contemporary literary culture.
Other project team members:
- University Archivist, Dr Katrina Dean, managed Phase I of the Greer Archive project, including a review of the Archives access management framework and guidelines and leading work on the digital media series. Katrina’s successor, former deputy archivist Sue Fairbanks was project manager of Phase II of the Greer Archive project (March 2017-March 2018).
- Audio visual archivist Emma Hyde managed the preservation and inventory of the audio, video and film records.
- Archivist Stella Marr has worked on physical conservation of the records, accessioning and exhibition requests.
- Dr Natasha Story has catalogued the 2016 accession of books in the Greer Archive (2016.0137) and worked on the listing for the 2014 series, 2014.0056.
- Dr Sebastian Gurciullo has time-coded the Italian-language records in the audio series, interviews with Primo Levi, Federico Fellini and Pavarotti.
A number of other University of Melbourne staff members are contributing to the project by developing standards for digital cataloguing, developing the website, assisting with digital forensics, digitising parts of the collection, or advising on legal and technical issues.
What did we do?
Lachlan, Rachel, Sarah, Kate and Millie listed major series in the archive. A series is a word that describes a group of records of a similar format, content or use in the creator’s record-keeping system. In the Greer Archive, the first series we worked on included: general correspondence; early years academic, performance, writing and personal papers; research and reference card indexes; major works; print; speaking; and television; and audiovisual records produced (and received by Greer).
This work was physical and intellectual; it required a steady hand, a strong back, neat handwriting, attention to detail, an awareness of complex ethical, legal and moral obligations and relationships, and the ability to make connections quickly and creatively.
Many of the 487 boxes contain dozens of individual folders (called items on a catalogue), most of them named by Germaine Greer. The physical work includes: rehousing the records in acid-free folders; giving each folder a 13-digit item number; removing rusty staples and replacing them with plastic paperclips; putting photographs in Mylar sleaves; flagging other conservation issues (such as faxes or thermal copies that are fading).
The intellectual work began with reading through the contents of each folder and flagging sensitive material (such as third-party privacy concerns). We then describe the records. We developed a thesaurus of subject headings for the Greer Archive, some from the Library of Congress and others specific to Greer’s life and work and this thesaurus has now been listed as part of the archives control records series. Our aim was to provide as many entry points to the records as we can and to create descriptions that were direct but not didactic. We imagined multiple possible future uses for these records but accept there will be uses beyond our imaginations.
We are custodians of this archive and we want to protect and preserve the records for current and future generations of scholars.
Germaine Greer is an early adopter of technology and has used computers for correspondence, publishing and word processing since the late 1980’s, beginning with her journalism and works such as Kissing the Rod and Daddy, We Hardly Knew You. The archive contains just under 600 items of digital removable media, including 3 ½” and 5 ¼” floppy disks, zip disks, CD-Rs and external hard drives, as well as several whole computers. Part of the first phase of the Greer Archive project plan involves forensically imaging the archive’s digital media to prevent degradation of the contents and ensure ongoing access and preservation. An acquisition plan is being developed to acquire further born digital material from Germaine Greer.