In 1992, UNESCO's Memory of the World Program was launched in an effort to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity “against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and wilful and deliberate destruction”. These items can be a single document, a collection, a holding or an archival fonds that is deemed to be of such significance as to transcend the boundaries of time and culture. Established in 2000, the Australian chapter of the Memory of the World Program now contains 57 historical items in its register, including the Endeavour journal of James Cook, the Mabo case manuscripts, Australia’s first narrative film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) and the 1891 and 1894 women's suffrage petitions. Joining these priceless items in 2019 is the Australian Museum’s remarkable Scott Sisters Lepidoptera collection of notebooks, manuscripts, sketches and finely-detailed watercolour paintings of Australian moths and butterflies. The collection is one of the most comprehensive Australian 19th century natural science and natural history art archive in the country, and the illustrations are still being used by scientists today.
Archivist Vanessa Finney explains, “There is no other scientific archive in Australia like it. It is unique for its combination of documentation of natural history practice, scientifically useful biological content, completeness, beauty, artistic ambition and innovations in natural history art, and for its documentation of two women’s sustained efforts to be recognised as legitimate contributors to Australia’s natural sciences.”
Also being added is Australia’s first ever Census (1828) from the State Archives of New South Wales and Ethel Turner’s handwritten Seven Little Australians manuscript (1893) from the State Library of New South Wales.