The primary focus of the research collection is John Curtin’s life and times.
Building the collection more than 50 years after Prime Minister Curtin’s death posed challenges, as materials were dispersed amongst private individuals, organisations, and state, national and overseas archival institutions. The special collections catalogue provides online access to these records, in addition to other JCPML-held records, in a seamless manner. Much of the collection has been digitised, including photographs, documents, oral histories, sound recordings and motion pictures.
The JCPML acknowledges the very significant and ongoing contribution of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in digitising the Curtin-related Commonwealth records held in its collections and in facilitating access to the digitised items on the NAA’s online RecordSearch.
The Library’s special collections also provides access to material not directly related to John Curtin, but which falls into other collection themes.
John Curtin’s life and times
The primary focus of the research collection is on John Curtin and the events and people most closely connected to his life and work. It is in this area that collection development is actively undertaken. The significant research collection resulting from this priority is what makes the JCPML unique. The archival collection includes personal records of the Curtin family, books from the Curtin family library, ephemera, objects, photographs, oral histories, audio-visual material and copies of unpublished official records.
Within this theme, the JCPML holds the research papers of respected journalist and economist, Tom Fitzgerald, amassed for his intended biography of Curtin; the papers of Alex McCallum, WA State Labor parliamentarian and key associate of Curtin; and the papers of Bob Wurth, in association with the research and writing of his book Saving Australia, Curtin’s secret peace with Japan, (Lothian Books, South Melbourne, 2006) which focuses on the Australian-Japanese relationship.
Other collection themes
The collection focus of John Curtin’s life and times provides a springboard for a range of other themes. This includes the Australian-American relationship; post-war reconstruction; foreign policy; social and political history; and the prime ministership as an office, including a focus on the lives and contribution of those directly associated with it such as the spouses and families of prime ministers.
Papers of Hazel Hawke
In line with the theme of the prime ministership as an office, The Hazel Hawke Collection was donated to the JCPML. Identifying herself as a West Australian, Hazel Hawke wished her records be held at a university in her home state.
The collection also includes about 80 metres of records created by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), transferred to the JCPML by the National Archives of Australia and DFAT. These records comprise the working papers accumulated in the course of preparing the 16-volume publication Documents on Australian Foreign policy, 1937–1949.
The research potential of these records is significant as only about 10% of the working papers were used in the published volumes, and the contents and subjects covered are broad – from war cabinet agenda and minutes to major world events such as Hitler’s peace offensive; the fall of France; appeals to Roosevelt; war crimes; refugees; Imperial Defence; League of Nations; post war planning; and Pacific rim events concerning Japan, New Guinea, Timor and US Pacific interests.
Adding value to the collection
The JCPML adds value to the collection through the creation of searchable text files of important records, especially those not suited to scanning as images. These documents include transcripts of oral histories, speeches, and text of articles and editorials written by Curtin and published in such papers as the Westralian Worker, Socialist, Timber Worker and The Daily News.