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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Fairfax corporate archives to go to State Library of NSW

About two weeks ago I sent an enquiry to Fairfax Media, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), about Archer Russell, a journalist and naturalist who died in 1960. Russell, I believed, was the editor of the ‘Outdoor Australia’ page of the Sydney Mail, a Fairfax publication that ran from 1860 to 1938. There are papers in the State library holdings under Russell’s name that suggest this was the case, including letters to the editor signed by people living around the state who wanted answers to questions they had.

That email wasn’t answered so on Monday I phoned the media liaison for the company and left a message. At the same time, I went to the SMH website and initiated a chat to ask for help. The SMH staffer on the chat function gave me the Readerlink email address, and I sent them an email with the same question I had asked earlier. This time there was a response, and I learned yesterday that the SMH corporate archives will be given to the State Library of NSW. “Next year you can look them up with the State Library,” they said.

This will be of interest to many people because Fairfax has been around since 1831. The company’s recent fortunes have led to it getting by without an on-staff archivist. A stark difference compared to the way things were in 1931, at the 100-year mark in the company’s corporate journey, when Fairfax published a big, fat book titled ‘A Century of Journalism: The Sydney Morning Herald and Its Record of Australian Life’. The foreword is signed “John Fairfax and Sons Limited, Proprietors [of] The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney Mail”. It’s an enormous book, running to over 800 pages, with an index and black-and-white photographs with captions.

Above: Russell and Marion, his wife, make camp on Cooltong Reach along the Murray River, as shown in this photograph. From ‘Murray Walkabout,’ Melbourne University Press, 1953.

The following is the transcript of an article published in the Murray Pioneer, October 1920:
On Monday morning (says The Register) Mr G. E. Archer Russell, traveller and writer, left Adelaide on what he termed “a little wander trip”, along the back track to Sydney. He purposes journeying up the Murray to the Murrumbidgee, whence he will cross the Riverina to the mountains and Sydney. Among other places comprised in his itinerary are Blanchetown, Renmark, Mildura, Yanco, and Burrinjuck, and later when Sydney has been reached, Mount Kosciusko and Canberra. He expects to be away about three months. Mr. Russell, besides having published books and articles on travel and nature in other parts, is the author of the series of the River Murray sketches, entitled “Gumland and River,” now running through the Saturday Journal. Mr. Russell has travelled unbeaten tracks in many parts of the world, notably in Africa and the further East. He intends to write a further book on his wanderings for publication in England. 
Mr. Russell is a very attractive writer, and his “Gumland and River sketches” (inspired by a sojourn at Berri) are among the best of their kind anyone has done.

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