Private Archives & Archival Information

What is an archive

The term archive refers to the personal records of individuals, families, or non-government organisations. These personal records can include a wide range of different types of materials such as personal diaries, photos and albums, letters exchanged, manuscript drafts for books or field notes from explorations and research.

How to find archives about Aboriginal people

Archives are often described in our catalogue according to the name of the person who donated the items. Therefore the key to finding archives that relate to Aboriginal people is to get a bit of background about the people who had early contact with Aboriginal people or the places that Aboriginal people lived or were sent to live.

The records of early anthropologists and explorers represent some of our earliest archives and help to depict traditional life of the Aboriginal people they came into contact. Such as:

  • The Denison Planes Company journal of their 1866 exploration of the Roebourne area;
  • Daisy Bates 1907 to 1940 papers from 30 years of research notes and draft of her book The Native Tribes of Western Australia;

The archives of early pioneer families and settlersrecord some of the impacts of early contact between the first peoples of Western Australia and first arrivals to the colony. For example:

  • The Muir Family, 1844 to 1960 who settled in the Albany, Mt. Barker and Manjimup and Eucla areas of the South West
  • The Reynolds Family, 1789 to 1961, pioneers in the Nannup, Wonnerup and later Margaret River regions of the South West

The archives of churches who ran missions also represent an important source of information about Aboriginal West Australians as do the research papers of early historians.

  • Mogumber Methodist Mission archives for information about the Moore River Aboriginal Settlement;
  • For the Anglican Forrest River mission archives refer to the archives of the mission priests.

A keyword search in our catalogue under the place name of a mission or mission area can be a good starting place for finding these archives.

How much information is in an archive?

Keep in mind that a catalogue record describing an archive can be referring to one item or to hundreds - a clue is given at the description and note fields, and you can view an entire listing by looking at the manuscript notes (MN's). Manuscript notes for the private archives collection are located in the yellow folders in the Battye reading room, and staff are on hand to assist you with using these.

See our Indigenous Family History Guide for information about archives held that can support family history research

See our Finding Archives pages for more general information about accessing this important resource.

Why do we want to have these archives?

Archives are a way that we can build a bigger picture of our culture and heritage. Documentation in archives is often raw and does not always make it's way into a commerical and/or published format. Archives also give us different perspectives and different viewpoints.

When you put archives together with official published records they can give us a more complete picture of what society was like for different groups of people in that society. Archives can be used as sources of information for people researching the events of a particular time and place.

We are very keen to increase the number of archives we collect from Indigenous Western Australians to make sure these perpectives are preserved and made available. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can contribute to our archives call 9427 3111 or email:

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Page last updated: Tuesday 19 April 2011

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