The collection, held in the University of Sydney’s Archives and Macleay Museum, documents the activities and careers of eminent academics associated with the oldest department of Anthropology at an Australian university. It puts on record a time of dominance of the pioneers of Australian and Pacific social anthropology which included AR Radcliffe-Brown, AP Elkin, Camilla Wedgwood, and HIP Hogbin as well as researchers funded by the Australian National Research Council such as WEH Stanner, Olive Pink, Ursula McConnell and WL Warner, all of whom carved out significant anthropological careers outside Sydney University.
The influence of the Sydney academics on Indigenous and South Pacific anthropology, within Australia and internationally, was profound as was their influence on government administration in the South Pacific both before and after the Second World War. They, and the Department's graduates, were involved in the Australian School of Pacific Administration and in Colonel Alf Conlon's Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs during World War II (Conlon was a University of Sydney graduate and both Hogbin and Wedgwood were commissioned as Lieutenant-Colonels in the Directorate).
The collection comprises field notes, genealogies, correspondence, photographs, audio-visual material and reports. It is well provenanced and, in addition to holdings relating to Radcliffe-Brown, Elkin, Wedgwood, and Hogbin, contains material associated with other distinguished anthropologists such as Raymond Firth, Ronald and Catherine Berndt, and Phyllis Karberry.
The collection corresponds with a number of other collections on the Australian, Asia-Pacific, and International Memory of the World registers relating to Indigenous records such as the Norman Barnett Tindale Collection, Board for Anthropological Research Collection, Mountford-Sheard Collection, and the Berndt Collection of Yirrkala Drawings on the Australian Register; the FE Williams Collection on the Australian and MOWCAP registers; and the Arthur Bernard Deacon Papers of Vanuatu, UK and Northern Ireland, which contains documents associated with Camilla Wedgwood and was inscribed on the Memory of the World International Register in 2013.