Digitisation of Traditional Format Library Materials

Australian Inland Mission collection

Project Brief | Cataloguing Guidelines | Preservation & Handling

General description of the proposed project

The Australian Inland Mission (AIM) collection was assembled by the Reverend Fred McKay and documents the work of the Australian Inland Mission since its inception in 1911. The AIM was a network of nursing hostels and hospitals, each in association with a patrol padre, established to create a ‘mantle of safety’ for the inhabitants of the remote regions of Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. A large component of the collection was created by Reverend John Flynn, a Presbyterian minister who was founder and superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. He established the Aerial Medical Service in 1928, which later became the Royal Flying Doctor Service. A number of glass slides relating to Rev. John Flynn’s early work in the Gippsland region is also included in the collection.

Collection material of relevance to the project

Although the AIM collection also includes the records of the Australian Inland Mission (MS 5574) and a collection of pedal wireless sets and parts and other objects relating to the AIM (PIC OBJ A40003752-A40003922) only the pictorial component are of relevance to this digitisation project. The pictorial part of the AIM collection is comprised of 4,466 individual items of photographic material including gelatin silver photographs, glass slides, glass negatives and nitrate negatives, as listed below.

All digitisation is to be from the original collection material

Levels of use and user groups – current and anticipated

Current interest in the AIM collection is moderate to high, and use can be expected to increase significantly when the material is more readily accessible in digital format. The collection has potential interest for a wide range of users, particularly those researching the history of missions, the Flying Doctor Service and early 20th Century relations with indigenous communities and individuals. The geographical coverage of the collection is large and varied, and should be of relevance to users across Australia. The strong focus on the collection on inland Australia, and the more remote parts of Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory will help redress the current emphasis on the Eastern States found in the National Library’s Pictures Collection. The clarity of most of the images, their early date and their record of many remote and poorly documented settlements etc, in inland Australia make the Australian Inland Mission Collection extremely valuable to researchers.

Bibliographic coverage of the collection

There is a collection level entry for the collection on the Library’s catalogue and Kinetica, with the AMICUS number 11408153. The present captions are adequate though the Digitisation Team may upgrade some.

Preservation, care and handling guidelines

DISCLAIMER: The National Library of Australia disclaims liability for the use of the information provided in this page. The guidelines have been produced to aid Library staff in the digitisation of collection material. The National Library of Australia accepts no responsibility for the loss occasioned as a direct or indirect result of the use of the information in these guidelines.

The AIM collection is currently at considerable preservation risk; due the number of cracked glass plates and plates with peeling emulsion, and digitisation of this material would greatly assist in its preservation. The collection has been re-housed in the Library cold store, with 109 nitrate negatives stored at the Mitchell nitrate cold store facility.

The APS5 (Preservation) within the Digitisation Project surveyed the collection and prepared the following care and handling notes.

General rules:

Treatments: Most of the plastic negatives will not be treated as they are beyond treatment. Please ensure you are wearing gloves when handling these items and that your area is well ventilated.

Cracked or lifting emulsions should be given to a conservator to treat. Please do not take the plate out of the paper wrapping when damaged. Please place the damaged negative in a mylar pocket and then in the green polypropylene box provided with treatment form.

Cleaning: Fingerprints and smudges on glass negatives should be cleaned with Ethanol using a cotton swab. Clean the non-emulsion side only!

Scanning plastic negatives: Please use the glass tray when scanning plastic negatives and ensure the glass tray is securely in place.

Scanning glass negatives:

Cropping: Please crop to the edge of the image area leaving 1mm border (maximum 2mm).

Intellectual property or other rights

The AIM collection is free from copyright restrictions. The (admittedly brief) titles given to some of the images in the caption lists has raised some concern as to the presence of secret or sacred material, but this will be easily identified by the digitisation staff and flagged for restricted viewing.

IT requirements

No additional investments would be required from an IT perspective – scanning devices in the Digitisation Project work area could be employed; images would be stored on the DCM and delivered to users via the Pictures Catalogue.

Resource requirements

This collection can be absorbed within the 2002-2003 financial year digitisation work plan to meet the established targets.


The AIM digitisation project would support the Bringing Them Home Report, which recommends that archival institutions that hold records relating to Indigenous people should make these records available.


Digitisation of the Australian Inland Mission collection is scheduled for completion by mid-2003..

Other considerations

The captions given to a number of images of Indigenous people reflect contemporary attitudes and could cause distress or offence these days. The Pictures Catalogue home page warns users “Titles have been transcribed from original items and reflect attitudes of the time”.

Contact officer: Michelle Hetherington, Pictures Branch


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