Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

A Day in the Life of a State Archive (part 1)

from request to delivery

[or: The Amazing Adventures of Dame Nellie Melba’s Probate Packet]

Someone just found me on the internet! I’m listed in a database called Archives Investigator – the online archival catalogue at State Records NSW. Not all of the 7+ million items stored here have been listed in the system so I feel quite important.

What am I?

I should introduce myself before we move on. I’m a record, or more importantly, an archive. A probate packet to be precise. I am [ahem] almost 80 years old;  ‘born’ when the subject of my contents died.

Life before arriving at State Records NSW is a bit hazy…I believe I spent most of the time bundled together with other probate packets deep in the bowels of the Supreme Court of NSW. And here at SRNSW? Well…I spend most of my time in a box bundled together with other probate packets. I don’t mind, we all know each other. Not much happens to us. Until now…

How was I found?

As I said, I’m on Facebook Archives Investigator and someone searched for me. There are many types of searches that be done in Archives Investigator – I was found through an Advanced -> Record Item Search.

Archives Investigator - Advanced Item Search for Nellie Melba

and the result was this:

Search results for Nellie Melba using "All Words"

What happens now that I have been found?

Our savvy web surferI’m an ‘item’ in the system and the savvy web surfer who found me wants to know more about me. In fact, he decided he needs to see me. The quick and easy option would be to purchase a copy through the online shopping system but in the end he decided for the ‘try before you buy’ option.

This means I’m being pre-ordered.

What the heck is a preorder?

SRNSW helps you get the most research out of your day by offering a service in which you can pre-order records in advance of your visit. While this service has been in place for a few years, it is a new facility in Archives Investigator. SRNSW is continually working on ‘streamlining’ the pre-order process; the main problem being that not all records are listed in the one system. Other ways to preorder are by using the generic pre-order web form, by telephone (02)  9673 1788 and by email

The new option in Archives Investigator is a simple four step process:

  1. if the record can be ‘booked’ the pre-order option will be available
  2. follow the prompts to the ‘checkout’
  3. fill in your details
  4. select a date for your visit (at least two working days ahead) and submit.

preorder and purchase optionsThe pre-order request has been submitted and received. Let’s see what happens tomorow…

Questions (includes links with your answers, please)

  1. What is the most useful online archival catalogue you have found?
  2. Have you used a pre-order system before?

[If you’re interested, more information about (Dame) Nellie Melba is on the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.]