Basser Library and Fenner Archives, Canberra

Identity area



Authorized form of name

Basser Library and Fenner Archives, Canberra

Parallel form(s) of name

Other form(s) of name

  • Australian Academy of Science Archive and Library


  • Educational
  • Private

Contact area



Street address

15 Gordon Street (The Shine Dome), Acton




Australian Capital Territory

Country name

Postal code



02 6201 9431


02 6201 9494



Description area


The Basser Library was established in February 1960 with a gift from Sir Adolph Basser. Its main objectives were to collect materials documenting the history of science in Australia and to conduct and promote related historical research. The manuscripts collection was established in 1962, and manuscript or archival collections have since been donated to the Fenner Archives by numerous Fellows of the Academy, other prominent scientists, and scientific organisations. The 233 manuscript collections of Fellows and other leading scientists, in particular, are valuable original sources of information on the history of Australian science.

In 2016, the Academy made a decision to seek to relocate historically significant items of the Fenner Archives to more publicly focused institutions. However, in March 2018, the decision was made to retain the collections with access for researchers by arrangement, with the long-term view to professionally digitising important historical content (the latter depending on substantial, special-purpose funding).

The Academy’s work in preserving and recording the collections to best practice standards will be of great future value and support knowledge of the archives. An updated catalogue of collections will be made available online later in 2020 for the information of researchers.

Geographical and cultural context

Mandates/Sources of authority

Administrative structure

Records management and collecting policies

History of science in Australia. The Library collects personal papers of prominent Australian scientists and records of scientific societies.



  • Rivett, A C D: Papers, 1907-1961 (4.4m)
  • Gilruth, J A: Papers, 1890-1954 (0.16m)
  • Geological Society of Australia: Records, 1953- (10m)
  • Australian Institute of Physics: Records, 1923- (14.5m).
  • Australian Society for Parasitology: Records, 1964- (10.4m)
  • Swan, J M: Papers, 1943-1985 (7.2m)
  • Fenner, F J: Papers, 1920- (5.75m)
  • Tate, R: Papers, 1863-1894 (0.05m)
  • Wark, I W: Papers, 1909-1985 (6.25m)
  • Titterton, E W: Papers, 1937-1986 (17m)
  • Fairley, N H: Papers, 1916-1971 (6.1m)

Quantity: 230m (35% in-house).


  • Clayton, Rosanne, 'Basser Library Manuscripts listed recently' Historical Records of Australian Science 6(3)(Dec 1986): 423-5
  • Clayton, Rosanne, 'The Adolph Basser Library' Group for Scientific and Technological Collections Newsletter 4 (March 1988): 3-4
  • Clayton, Rosanne, 'Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science' in editors Biskup, P and Goodman, D, Resources for Australian studies in the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra College of Advanced Education, 1988:173-193
  • Clayton, Rosanne, 'Basser Library manuscripts listed 1987-1988' Historical Records of Australian Science 7/4 (June 1989): 431-435
  • Clayton, Rosanne and McCarthy, Gavan 'The records of E.W. Titterton, nuclear physicist' Archives and Manuscripts 20/1 (May 1992): 41-50

Finding aids, guides and publications

  • Entries in National Library of Australia Guide to Collections of Manuscripts Relating to Australia.
  • Guides produced by Australian Science Archives Project for Walter Geoffrey Duffield, Ronald Gordon Giovanelli, Andrew Crowther Hurley, Armin Aleksander Opik, Albert George Lloyd Rees, Ian William Wark.
  • King, Bill and McCarthy, Gavan, The records of Albert Cherbury David Rivett (1885-1961) and British Association for the Advancement of Science Australian meeting 1914 ASAP, 1988.

Access area

Opening times

By appointment .

Access conditions and requirements

Material is available under the Archives Act 1983 (Cth). Researchers must sign an access agreement.


Services area

Research services

By request.

Reproduction services

By request.

Public areas

Control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Revised 7 August 2020




Maintenance notes

Access points

Access Points

  • Agriculture (Thematic area)
  • Education (Thematic area)
  • Science and Technology (Thematic area)
  • Clipboard

Primary contact

15 Gordon Street (The Shine Dome), Acton
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601