Kevin Sherlock Collection: Work in progress

The late Kevin Sherlock, Timor bibliographer and collector extraordinaire, willed his outstanding archive to the Charles Darwin University Library. CHART’s John Waddingham and Cecily Gilbert have just completed two weeks in Darwin assisting the Library to prepare the collection for researcher access.

Kevin Sherlock with his expanding collection, c1980s. [Source: ETRA Archives]

Kevin Sherlock with his expanding collection, c1980s. [Source: ETRA Archives]

Hundreds of Timor-related books and journals collected by Kevin Sherlock are now visible through the CDU Library catalogue. Arrangement and description of Kevin’s vast collection of other collected materials and his own bibliographic and research work on them remains a work in progress.

The document archive
The large non-monograph component of the collection is visually dominated by labelled folders containing collected articles, pamphlets and unpublished items,’chronological files’ containing copies of Portuguese official bulletins from the mid-19th century and newsclippings up to mid-2014. Additionally, Kevin constructed from these collected sources, compilations of colonial-era materials on a range of research topics like administration, health, education, shipping, roads and buildings.

Complementing these folders is a bewildering array of hand-written and typed indices, along with a comprehensive record of correspondence with authors, academics, journalists and activists from around the world who sought Kevin’s always-generous sharing of knowledge, materials and meticulous proof reading expertise.

The particular strength of the collection is its assemblage of pre-1975 Portuguese colonial era materials already mentioned. The post-1975 materials is predominantly published materials from the many actors in the East Timor political issue, including a fair sample of rarely-seen Indonesian government items and a good number of unpublished academic higher-degree theses.

More detail on the collection contents can be seen in Kevin’s 450-page, but incomplete, 2002 shelf list.

CHART’s work
Our first task was to restore order to the hundreds of labelled folders and then add to them a significant number of unlabelled folders.

More difficult was the substantial volume of loose or unstructured materials. These were a surprise given Kevin’s very evident devotion to order but are perhaps a reflection of seriously declining health over his final decade. Our approach was to derive a provisional list of folder sequences or ‘series’ from the labelled folders and sort the loose papers into manilla folder sequences reflecting that list.

The end product of our work for the CDU Library will be data about the collection in the form of a ‘finding aid’ for researchers to gain an overview of the collection structure and to identify materials they wish to examine.

Labelled folders: Chronologies, compilations, indexes, correspondence and much more.

Labelled folders: Chronologies, compilations, indexes, correspondence and much more. [CHART photo]

Missing Kevin
This is a seriously impressive research collection which will be much consulted in the years to come. What is clearly missing from it is Kevin himself. He was the living key to exploiting the richness of his holdings. It will take some time for archivists and researchers to unlock some of the secrets of his indexing work and filing systems to again realise the full value of his materials.

Kevin is however present in another way. The collection as a whole, and in its many parts, is an enduring testament to this extraordinary person. For a tiny taste: a sample of his data sources research for others, his quiet humour, and a note on Dili’s ‘oldest building’ – the latter being exactly the kind of work that earned him the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ moniker from one long-time correspondent.

Accessing the collection
CDU Library is preparing to launch the collection and make it available for researcher access. The exact timing remains unclear; the Library is rightly ensuring that they first have systems in place to protect the physical integrity of the collection for the generations of researchers to come.

Pictures of CHART Work, Darwin, 10-23 September 2015

An archivist's joy: A grand mix of labelled folders, journals and unsorted document clumps.

An archivist’s bread and butter: A grand mix of labelled folders, journals and unsorted document clumps.

Sorting the unsorted (shelves at right) into folders and then into archive boxes (rear, left). {CHART photo]

Sorting the unsorted (on shelves at right) into folders (on table) and then into archive boxes (rear, left). [CHART photo]

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Teamwork: Adding unique number IDs to folders (John) and updating collection data (Cecily). [CHART photo]

More of those sorted, Kevin Sherlock-labelled folders. [CHART photo]

More of those sorted, Kevin Sherlock-labelled folders. [CHART photo]

In progress: Thirty archive boxes (at left) of now-sorted but not fully described materials. [CHART photo]

In progress: Thirty archive boxes (at left) of now-sorted but not fully described materials. [CHART photo]

Introducing the Sherlock collection to a CDU 'Engagement with Timor-Leste' seminar, 21 Sept 2015. [Source: CDU]

Introducing the Sherlock collection to a CDU ‘Engagement with Timor-Leste’ seminar, 21 Sept 2015. [Source: CDU]

CDU Library Director Ruth Quinn with some of the catalogued monographs in the Sherlock Collection. [CHART photo]

CDU Library Director Ruth Quinn, responsible for arrangements with Kevin over his bequest, with some of the catalogued monographs in the Sherlock Collection. [CHART photo]

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to CDU Library for covering travel and other costs for our work in Darwin. Particular thanks to the retiring CDU Director of Library Services, Ruth Quinn, CDU archivist Stephen Hamilton, and Palmerston campus librarian Tita Allom and staff for their friendly welcome and support.

Many thanks also to Mauri Heading SJ for his generous provision of always-comradely accommodation. And to Flavia Pires, a long-time friend and help for Kevin, and who spread his ashes in the Timor mountains, for her friendly support.

One Response to Kevin Sherlock Collection: Work in progress

  1. Dear John and colleagues,

    May I say this is such brilliant, important, caring and generous work that you and your team do. I extend my deepest admiration and I hope to see this collection for myself one day. Kevin really deserves some sort of public recognition for what he has preserved for the East Timorese and for the world.

    Warmest good wishes,

    Kerry

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