NSW Parliament has recently passed a Bill that has paved the way for the creation of a new cultural institution focused on the history of the state.
The Museums of History NSW Bill 2022 creates a new Museums of History NSW Act 2022, amends the State Records Act 1998, and establishes Museums of History NSW (MHNSW), the first cultural institution in the state with history as its core mandate.
MHNSW will be formed by the coming together of the vast collection held by the NSW State Archives (SARA), one of Australia’s pre-eminent archives and records authorities, and the 12 museums and associated collections cared for by Sydney Living Museums (SLM).
As a key custodian and storyteller of history, MHNSW will delve into the past to gain a better understanding of our place in the world today and will engage in the stories of the state for a more informed perspective tomorrow. We will place history before us rather than behind us, making it immersive, discoverable and relevant to the people of NSW.
Paramount is greater access to and understanding of the past – its rich and varied histories, stories and cultures. By combining the formidable assets and expertise of SARA and SLM, MHNSW will focus on growing, managing, preserving and providing public access to the State Archives Collection and the objects, materials, buildings, places and stories that shape the historical, social, political and cultural identity of NSW.
In addition, the Bill also improves the State Records Act 1998 by:
- requiring public offices to make transfer plans to ensure that records of enduring value that are no longer in business use are cared for in the State Archives Collection managed by MHNSW; and
- ensuring that records in the ‘open access period’ are open by default unless subject to a ‘closed to public access’ direction, and reducing the open access period from 30 years to 20 years.
There is a 12 month transition period for these two amendments which will come into effect on 1 January 2024.
Alongside the creation of MHNSW will be the formation of State Records NSW (SRNSW) – a separate and dedicated agency for recordkeeping standards, regulation, advice, education and policy.
The Museums of History NSW Act 2022 and the majority of amendments to the State Records Act 1998 will be effective from 31 December 2022. Provisions relating to access and transfer commencing operation on 1 January 2024.
Image: The Mint. Photo © Douglas Riley for Sydney Living Museums. NSW State Archives. Photo © NSW State Archives