Archives

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The major repository for the Archives of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is at the College headquarters in Melbourne. There are also localised collections of archival material in the regional offices of the College.

The Archives are the corporate memory of the College, from its origins in 1927 to the present day. They include a diverse collection of archival material documenting the history and development of surgical practice and of the College. These records come from a variety of sources and include historical material and records generated by the College and its associated bodies.

The primary activity of the Archives is to manage the College records and to provide access to staff and others interested in the history of surgery and the College. Archives staff can answer reference queries and conduct research.

Reference and research services are available for subjects such as:

  • the history of the College
  • surgeons and surgery in Australia and New Zealand
  • biographical research (also view in memoriam)

Records more than 30 years old are generally available for reference and research purposes. Access to more recent records may be considered upon application to the College.

A general description of the College Archive and collection can be found in the Directory of Archives in Australia, a publication compiled by Australian Society of Archivists.

Related information about the collection is found on the National Library of Australia's Trove website. 

Significant Collections in the Archives include:

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

A significant resource illustrating the origins and early development of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery can be found in the Archives. It includes collections from Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup and from Sir Benjamin Rank, a past President of the College.

Cases of facial and jaw injuries were common during World War I and in 1917 a new hospital dealing with these injuries was established in the grounds of the Frognal Estate at Sidcup in Kent. Between 1917 and 1921 around 8000 soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States were treated at the hospital.  Each of these countries offered its own surgical team and the Australian Section was run by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Newland, a future President of the College. Sir Harold Gillies who later became an Honorary Fellow of the College, headed the New Zealand Section.

The collection contains:

  • patient records
  • watercolour illustrations made by Sir Daryl Lindsay
  • photographs
  • facial plaster casts (in the College Museum)
  • X-ray prints
  • operative sketches.

The Sidcup Collection is complemented by the collection of material from Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon, Sir Benjamin Rank. Dating from the 1930s, it includes annotated photograph albums and documentary material from the Heidelberg Military Hospital. Following his time at the Heidelberg Hospital, Sir Benjamin Rank worked mainly at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and was President of the College between 1966 and 1968.

Archibald Watson Notebooks

A colourful and controversial character who spoke six languages and routinely flouted convention, Archibald Watson was the Professor of Anatomy at Adelaide University for 34 years. His notebooks dating from 1882-1936 provide valuable insights into the development of surgical practice. They also catalogue individuals who shaped the direction of surgery in the early twentieth century.

Hydatid Registry

In 1926, one of the College founders, Sir Louis Barnett visited the man he called the 'doyen of hydatid parasitologists', Félix Dévé. Soon after this encounter, Barnett aided by New Zealand and Australian surgeons, set up the Hydatid Registry. The Registry covers the period 1927-1950 and documents 2058 cases of hydatids in Australia and New Zealand.

Personal Papers

Sir Alan Newton (1887-1949)

An extraordinary speaker, administrator and exponent of thyroid surgery, Sir Alan Newton was active in College affairs from 1929 and was President of the College from 1943-1949. His papers include some photographs, correspondence and published and unpublished papers.

Balcombe Quick (1883-1969)

A Foundation Fellow of the College, Quick was a General Surgeon who took a particular interest in the treatment of wounds by débridgement. Known for his photographic skills he served as on the College Council was the College's de facto photographer in the 1930s and 40s.

Gordon Walgrave Trinca (1921-2009)

Gordon Trinca was an influential crusader for road safety who chaired the College's Trauma Committee from 1975- 1993. His papers include publications, memorabilia, correspondence and a 'Seat Belt' album from an International Symposium of Seatbelts in Tokyo (1979).

Contact

College Archivist
Hours: 8.00am -4.30pm Monday-Thursday, 8.00am-4.00pm every second Friday

Telephone: +61 3 9249 1270
Fax: +61 3 9249 1219
Email: college.archives@surgeons.org

Frequently asked questions

How do I make an enquiry?
Enquiries may be received via telephone, mail, fax or email. Please include relevant information regarding your enquiry.

How can I access the archive collection?
Fellows of the College are welcome to visit Archives during opening hours. Other users may visit the College by appointment to view the Archive collection and to conduct research. Records more than 30 years old are generally available for reference. Applications to access to records less than 30 years old will be assessed on a case by case basis.

 Do Archives offer reference and research services?
The primary function of College Archives is to preserve the historical records of the College and to provide current and historical information for College staff and officers carrying out College activities.  Upon request the College is able to provide reference and research service to Fellows of the College and members of the public.

Can Archives staff help me with biographical queries and tracing medical ancestors?
Biographical research can be conducted by archives staff for information about past Fellows of the College. In accordance with privacy regulations, personal information about current Fellows will not be provided without permission. The College archive and library collections have resources available for biographical searches. These include medical directories and journals, and bibliographical sources.