Basser Library and Fenner Archives
The Academy's library is named after the philanthropist Sir Adolph Basser, whose gift of £25 000 in 1960 enabled it to be established. The archives are named after Professor Frank Fenner AC CMG MBE FAA FRS, who over many years contributed both financially and intellectually to the collections and to their growth and development. The library and archives collect both published and unpublished material documenting the history of science in Australia, and promote related historical research. There is particular emphasis on collecting biographical material about prominent scientists.
The manuscript collection contains 231 sets of papers, ranging in quantity from a few sheets of correspondence to many hundreds of items. Individual scientists represented in the collection include significant figures in CSIRO such as Sir David Rivett, Sir Ian Wark and Dr Lloyd Rees, academics such as Professor Frank Fenner and Sir Ernest Titterton and more than 60 other Fellows of the Academy. The collection is not limited to Fellows; the papers of Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley, for example, are heavily used by people interested in malarial research. A number of scientific societies have also chosen the Basser Library as the repository for their archives — the Australian Institute of Physics and the Geological Society of Australia provide the largest collections.
The library's manuscript collections are publicised throughout the archival community. In addition to being listed on the Academy's website, they are accessible through the National Library's Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts.
Books and journals
The collection of printed material also contains much of value to research workers. Of particular interest are the back sets of Australian scientific periodicals including those produced by the early colonial Royal Societies and the other voluntary scientific associations that flourished in Australia in the 19th century, such as the Linnean Society of New South Wales.
The monograph collection is now available through the National Library’s Trove website http://trove.nla.gov.au/
Visiting the library
The library is open to all bona fide researchers, and is staffed four days a week (every day except Thursday) by a qualified librarian with training in archives work. Opening hours are 9.30am to 2.30pm; please contact the librarian on 6201 9431 or Lisa Conti Phillipps before visiting. Queries are received from a variety of sources ranging from family historians to scholars. Our biographical resources, in particular the biographies of Australian botanists compiled for the Hunt Institute, are regularly used, for example by the staff of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Contact with potential donors
Information about the Library's activities is disseminated throughout the scientific community, particularly by personal contact with scientists and their families. In this respect the Fellowship of the Academy is the Library's main resource.
Material of value
Any collections of 'personal' papers will in fact include much of general interest in the form of contact with other institutions and members of the scientific community in Australia and overseas. We are seeking material such as draft manuscripts, laboratory daybooks and field books, notes of experiments, personal diaries, letters, photographs, autobiographical notes and memoirs. Material of this type provides valuable source material for historians of science.
Tax deductions for donations
Donations of material to the Basser Library can be claimed as a taxation deduction under the Cultural Gifts Program. The librarian will arrange to have material valued and gifts approved by the appropriate authorities.
Each year the Library offers an award of $2,500 to encourage use of the collections by postgraduate students and other independent researchers.
Preserving the records of modern science
At its meeting on 16 December 2000, the Commission on Bibliography and Documentation of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science discussed the need to preserve permanently the historically valuable paper and electronic records of modern science and make them accessible to researchers.