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collections with access for researchers by arrangement, with the long-term view to professionally digitising important historical content (the latter depending on substantial, special-purpose funding).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.