Public electronic access to Australian archives has come slowly, as it has in most parts of the world. This is due mainly to the inherent problem of cataloguing large quantities of archival material, and converting the resultant information into an appropriate electronic format. However, there were significant moves locally on a number of fronts in 1995.
The Archives of Australia web site ( http://www.aa.gov.au ) was launched, sponsored by the Australian Archives, and the Australian Science Archives Project ( http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au ) , in association with the Australian Society of Archivists, began developing a web version of the Directory of Archives of Australia.
A.S.A.P. was also very active in making its own collections and work available on-line, and has recently sponsored the placement on the web of a transcript of Syms Covington's Beagle Journal, with illustrations and annotations. Prior to this there was little Internet access to archival holdings in Australia, apart from that available from larger collections, such as the National Library of Australia which is accessible via library catalogues and some gopher sites.
The Archives of Australia site has access not only to information on the Commonwealth Australian Archives, but also to the various state government bodies and some non-governmental institutions, such as the Australian Science Archives Project, the National Library of Australia manuscripts collection, and archives of the University of Sydney, Sydney City Council, the University of Wollongong, and Edith Cowan University. The latter site is an Internet resource for students enrolled in record keeping studies, and has links to various educational resources and American and Canadian archives.
As yet no on-line telnet connections are publicly available to archival catalogues or listings, such as to the large electronic databases developed by the Australian Archives and the New South Wales State Archives. Some summaries of holdings are available via gopher from the larger organizations, whilst smaller archives such as those at the University of Sydney and University of Wollongong have listings within their Web pages.
Despite this initial slow start, and ongoing constraints due to limited funding for the purchase of appropriate technology, the Internet will prove to be a great resource for publicizing Australian archival collections through the wider community.