Red Cross archive donated to State Library

What do a teddy bear, a dress pattern and a feeding cup have in common?
They are all part of the Red Cross NSW Division Archive.


Teddy bear knitted by Red Cross volunteers

The idea of giving handmade teddy bears to victims of traumatic events was started by a police officer in Campbelltown, NSW.

The State Library of NSW is honoured to be the recipient and custodian of the Red Cross NSW Archive. This invaluable collection of records documents the creation, growth and evolution of one of the state’s premier community organisations.

Pattern used for making cape for female members of the Junior Red Cross

The junior Red Cross was started in Australia by Eleanor MacKinnon who lived near Glen Innes in NSW. The voluntary work carried out by members of the junior Red Cross in World War I is estimated to be worth £800,000 in unpaid work.

The Red Cross was established within 9 days of Australia entering World War 1. It inspired and organised thousands of volunteers (mostly women and girls) around the state to knit, sew, bake, pack and transport comfort parcels to the troops serving in Europe and the Middle East. It ran eleven convalescent homes in NSW for soldiers who returned with severe war injuries after both world wars. Red Cross volunteers helped post-war migrants settle in Australia and escorted evacuees from Darwin, in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy, to hospitals in Sydney.

Today Red Cross volunteers serve the community in a range of ways including assisting at their life-saving blood bank, knitting trauma teddies and running Good Start breakfast clubs for children in low socio-economic parts of the state.

The Red Cross is such an integral part of the fabric of our community that its achievements can be easily overlooked. By donating its archive to the State Library, the Red Cross NSW Division has ensured its records will be available for existing and future researchers. Over the next two years, the State Library will work with Red Cross Archive volunteers to systematically catalogue, digitise and transfer the collection to the Library and make it available online.

Red Cross volunteers parade along Macquarie Street, Sydney, April 1918.

Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments parade along Macquarie Street, Sydney on 28 April 1918. Photo taken by Jas Spence, Turramurra from the top of the State Library of NSW Building (in Bent Street). PXE 705/21.

The archive includes:

Approximately 7432 photographs 
86 framed images
30 boxes of objects and memorabilia (eg. Collection tins, badges, teddy bears)
341 boxes of branch records
22 boxes of committee minutes
49 boxes of papers relating to Voluntary Aid Detachments of posters
30 boxes of Red Cross publications
3 boxes of publicity posters

Tin for collecting donations from people who came to the Anzac Buffet in Sydney's Domain

The Red Cross NSW Division ran an Anzac Buffet in Sydney's Domain from 1916-1919. You can find out more about the Buffet in this blog post.

A small display of some of the Red Cross Archive items will be on display at The State Library of NSW in the Amaze gallery until 13 September 2016.

Further reading: The Power of Humanity: 100 years of the Australian Red Cross 1914-2014, by Melanie Oppenheimer.

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