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Background & program

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library Program Statement

Introduction and purpose

The John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (JCPML) recognises the contribution to Australian society of war-time prime minister and international statesman, John Curtin (1885-1945). It is Australia’s first prime ministerial library and is situated on the Bentley campus of Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. The JCPML aims to advance knowledge and enrich culture by providing a focus for research and educational programs which engage Curtin staff, students and the wider community.

The JCPML develops and manages a unique collection of scholarly resources focussing on the life and times of John Curtin. It provides modern facilities and services to support researchers and an outreach program providing enjoyable and educational experiences to enrich the life of the University campus and the community.

The JCPML operates within the framework of the University and Library strategic plans.

Overall management responsibility for the JCPML rests with the University Librarian who is the JCPML Director. The Manager, Research & Copyright, is responsible for the day to-day management of the JCPML and implementation of its programs.

JCPML programs

The JCPML is sustained by its research program and online resources. The research collection is the integral core resource for the JCPML and is at the heart of its programs. Through its programs the JCPML:
• Develops and manages the archival collection, including original records and copies, according to archival principles;
• Acquires and maintains a collection of items suitable for exhibition;
• Preserves the collection and makes it accessible to researchers in the JCPML and online via the Electronic Research Archive (ERA) and federated search services such as the National Library of Australia’s Trove;
• Offers specialist reference services to clients making use of the archival collection;
• Provides a range of online education resources and Treasure Boxes for primary and secondary students;
• Provides public tours of the JCPML Archive;
• Develops small temporary displays and travelling exhibitions showcasing the JCPML collection;
• Markets and promotes JCPML activities to donors, supporters, the University and wider community;
• Publishes, predominantly in electronic format, research output and resources connected to the JCPML collection and programs (e.g. public lectures, educational resources, online versions of exhibitions, web resources);
• Develops a content-rich website providing access to ERA, information about events and programs, and a mix of scholarly and popular online resources;
• Promotes a high profile speaker for the annual JCPML Anniversary Lecture and organises other public events as appropriate;
• Conducts a Visiting Scholars program;
• Hosts meetings and activities connected with the JCPML collection.

The JCPML Historical Consultant and Patron provide invaluable support to the JCPML and its programs.

JCPML relationships

The JCPML has developed partnerships and cooperative arrangements with a number of key institutions and individuals. In particular, these benefit collection development, and public programs around visiting scholars, exhibitions and events. The most significant of these relationships is with the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

The JCPML is part of a the Network of Prime Ministerial Research and Collecting Agencies, including the Australian Prime Ministers Centre at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, the National Library of Australia, the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library, the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library, the Whitlam Institute, Noel Butlin and ANU Archives, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Chifley Home, the University of Melbourne Archives (which holds the Malcolm Fraser Collection) and the John Howard Reading Room at the UNSW Canberra Library.

The JCPML co-operates with other archival institutions in the acquisition of original records, only collecting archival material relating to its collection focus. Original records in the JCPML collection are private records, not Commonwealth or State records.


The JCPML’s research facilities and services are available to all clients who wish to make use of the research collection. JCPML staff assist researchers to make the best use of the collection onsite, provide phone and email services to those using the electronic archive online. Clients include:
• Researchers for whom the JCPML offers a comprehensive collection of resources;
• Members of the public who have an interest in the collections. e.g. professional writers, journalists, political analysts, filmmakers and playwrights;
• JCPML Visiting Scholars.

The JCPML’s outreach programs engage with a larger group of clients including:
• Participants in the online education resources and the Treasure Boxes provided by the JPCML;
• People attending the JCPML’s public events;
• People participating in the JCPML Archive tours;
• People visiting the JCPML web pages.

Research collection

The primary focus of the research collection is on John Curtin and the events and people most closely connected to his life and work.

The JCPML develops and manages a unique archival collection which includes personal records of the Curtin family, published items, ephemera, objects, photographs, oral histories, film, sound recordings and copies of unpublished official records.

Prior to 2010, collection development also occurred around a range of related themes to prime ministership as an office (relating to the lives and contribution of the spouses and families of prime ministers). In line with this latter theme, the JCPML holds the records of Hazel Hawke, with a particular focus on her time at the Lodge (1983-1991) and her work in the community.

Electronic Research Archive (ERA)

Building the collection more than 50 years after Prime Minister Curtin’s death posed particular challenges, with materials dispersed amongst private individuals, organisations, and state, national and overseas archival institutions. The JCPML provides electronic access to these records, as well as to records held in the JCPML, in a seamless manner via ERA. Records are accessible online as images (photographs, documents), text (contents of documents), audio or video (oral histories, sound recordings, motion pictures) or as finding aids.


Published materials relating to John Curtin are purchased for the JCPML reference collection and listed in the Curtin University Library catalogue. These works provide background information to assist in accessing the primary records in the collection.


The JCPML accepts donations in accordance with the Library’s Collection Principles and Archival Collection Guidelines. Every reasonable effort is made to secure original records within the JCPML collection guidelines.

Donors can feel confident that the records will be stored in secure and environmentally stable facilities to preserve and make them accessible for future use.

The JCPML is an approved institution under the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Deeds of Gift

All original records acquired are accompanied by appropriate deeds of gift. Conditions of such gifts are clearly stated and the rights of all parties are protected. Any conditions take account of current legislation, including that concerned with privacy and freedom of information.

Conditions of acceptance for donations are:
• The depositor must be authorised to transfer title to the records;
• The records must be free of legal encumbrances or access restrictions which will diminish their research potential;
• The records become the property of the JCPML, to be administered as it sees fit.


As a matter of usual practice, the JCPML does not pay for original records, but may, in special circumstances, consider purchasing items.


Collection items are made available for loan to other institutions for use in exhibits.


De-accessioning will only occur when records have been re-appraised and found to be unsuitable for the JCPML collection. Records recommended for de-accessioning will be offered to other public institutions. The decision will be fully documented and the outcome recorded with the original acquisition records.


The JCPML collection is housed in a purpose built repository which meets the environmental, storage and security standards required for an archives repository in Australia. The JCPML has access to specialist conservators who undertake work on a contract basis.


The JCPML collection has been valued for insurance purposes in 2004 and significant collections donated under the Cultural Gifts for the Arts program are separately valued. Artworks in the collection are valued along with the University’s art collection on a periodic basis.