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The Records and Archives Office was formed in May 2006 by the amalgamation of the Records Administration Section and the University Archives. The office forms part of Legal and Compliance within the Division of the Chief of Staff.

When the university was founded in 1949 and for some years immediately afterwards the Correspondence and Records Branch of the Department of Technical Education undertook recordkeeping responsibilities on behalf of the university. In May 1954 the Division of the Bursar was established and from then on the recordkeeping function steadily moved across from the department to the university. By 1957 a Records Section had been established within the Division of the Bursar. In 1967 this section became known as the Registry. During 1984 the Registry became part of the Division of the Deputy Principal (Administration), later known as the Division of the Registrar and Deputy Principal. In 1987 the unit was renamed the Records Administration Section which reflected the introduction of a more systematic approach to recordkeeping within the university.

Staff of the Registry, 1978 -
(l-r) Ron Nelson, Jack Szilagyi & John Rix
 (University Photographer, UNSW Archives CN1127/16)

Throughout the years several officers were responsible for the care and control of the university's archival record including the historian, Dr Isadore Brodsky, who was the first person officially in charge of the university's archival records. After his retirement in 1969 control of the archives was transferred to the University Librarian, Mr Allan Horton. Mr Horton had a keen interest in archives and over the years wrote two major reports on an archival program for the university, the first in 1959 and the second in 1977. In the latter Mr Horton recommended that the university establish an archives office with responsibility for a) official archives, b) historical records related to the university and an archives management program; c) an archives committee be established by Council; and d) a position of archivist be established. Following this second report the University Archives was established in 1980 and the first professional archivist appointed reporting directly to the Pro-Vice Chancellor. A University Archives Advisory Committee was also established at this time to advise the Vice Chancellor on matters relating to the development and operation of the University Archives.

Staff of the University Archives, 1989
(l-r) Linda Bowman, Laurie Dillon & Karin Brennan
(University Photographer, UNSW Archives 98A1)

The University Archives was assigned responsibility for an archival program including the collection and preservation of the archival records of the university, and for the provision of access to these records. The Archives also collects private papers of former staff and students and of UNSW-related organisations. It also conducts the university's oral history program which records individual histories of past and present members of the university community.

In 1987 the University Archives moved to its present location in the Library and immediate responsibility for the Archives transferred to the University Librarian. From 1995 to 2000 responsibility for the Archives lay with the Director for Information Services before reverting back to the University Librarian following the departure of the Director of Information Services and the foundation archivist at the same time.

The amalgamation of the Archives and the Records Administration Section into a Records and Archives Office in 2006 reflects the emphasis placed by the university on compliance with its legal obligations.