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 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
- 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
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:
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
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.
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
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
Hours: 8.00am -4.30pm Monday-Thursday, 8.00am-4.00pm every second
Telephone: +61 3 9249 1270
Fax: +61 3 9249 1219
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
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.