Meet the Archives Volunteers
Archivist - Maie Barrow
I was asked to become the archivist in 1994. I have a BA in French and a M.Sc in Chemistry but I had organised the UNSW Book Fair for many years. I said “yes”, how hard can it be? Well it was a lot harder than I thought. After seeking advice from other archivists I enrolled in an Archives course at UNSW and graduated in 1998 with a Masters degree in Information Management. I was the archivist for Botany Bay City Council for 15 years.
With the help of a dedicated group of volunteers I set about systemising the archival collection, arranging the library, and curating exhibitions and giving talks to introduce the collections to both the Estonian and Australian communities. We have rearranged the archival collection to concentrate on the material relating to the lives and activities of Estonians in Australia.
We answer many queries from researchers all over the world. I have participated in most of the Balthernet summer schools and conferences. EAA is part of a large network of memory institutions in Australia and Estonia and we have a good relationship with other expatriate Estonian archives.
Reet Simmul - Assistant Archivist
In 1949 my family arrived as migrants in Australia. After completing a Science degree, I worked in a virology laboratory then later at a vaccine production factory. After retirement from paid work I joined Maie Barrow in the Estonian Archives in Australia.
At the Archive, I have concentrated on organising the folders and boxes of Personal Papers we have in the archives. These are available online and everyone can see what we have in our collections. The volunteers who knew the Estonians who settled in Sydney before the WWII are a great help, as are friends in other cities.
Maie Barrow, and I have collected the memoirs of Estonians who have contributed to the activities of the Estonian communities from all parts of Australia. Our interviews, filmed with a simple video camera give insight on how our communities were established. I have also been involved in helping set up outreach projects the EAA has conducted.
We have formed a close friendship group on Wednesday and each one has a different experience and skill to bring to the Archive. The friendships we have made with archivists from Estonia and the summer schools and conferences enrich our lives.
Since arriving in Sydney in 1950 I have been involved in all things Estonian, e.g. folk dancing, girl guides, university clubs, editing the newspaper “Meie Kodu” and teaching at the Saturday school of languages. For 20 years I sang in the Estonian mixed choir and then became the conductor for the next 25 years.
I graduated as a chemist from Sydney University and worked as such for 35 years. I started in the Archive in 1981 assisting Dr Hugo Salasoo and I have worked there one day a week continuously ever since.
Alongside sorting and filing documents my main responsibility has been compiling an index of articles and in memoriam notices in Meie Kodu and digitising the data.
Archive work is very stimulating. We learn about Estonian history, every so often we come across a document dating back to the 19th century. We meet interesting people, many from overseas, who come to research their family history. I look forward to Archive days where I meet my co-workers, learn something new and have a few laughs.
My interest in all things Estonian (singing and folk dancing, culture and history) stemmed from my father who was born in Estonia and arrived in Australia in 1949.
I was invited to work and join the team working at Estonian Archives in 2019, after having retired from the State Library of New South Wales in 2013, having worked there as a library technician.
I was very happy to join a wonderful, committed, and, extremely talented group of people who already worked at the Archives, who are very patient in explaining and helping further my knowledge of Estonian history, culture, and, language. I don’t speak the language, but have picked up a lot since working there, and also participating in Kooskõlas choir, where the songs are part of the Estonian culture, history and language.
At the Archive, I am helping in the organization of folders and boxes of personal papers held in the Archives. They are an incredible resource of the personal history and lives of migrants who have come to Australia, since before World War I in some cases, made it their home, and who have contributed to this great country.
I studied medicine at Sydney University for a couple of years. Since I was more interested in mathematics and physics, I switched to engineering at UNSW, from which I graduated in electrical engineering. My working life as an engineer was with Telecom Australia until my retirement.
I arrived at the Archive about 4 years ago, with the objective of helping with their computer transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8. This was supposedly a temporary arrangement for about 2-3 weeks, at the request of a mutual friend.
Once there though, I was most impressed with the archives team. They were extremely friendly, highly competent and an exceptionally dedicated team. They could see that their work was valuable to the community, that their work mattered. I felt that this was the type of a team that I wanted to be part of. Thank you EAA for having me as one of you.
One of my main jobs is that as new material arrives, I sort these into our categories and then add them to our pre-existing boxes. I am also the Secretary of the Archives Council.
Vivat, Crescat, Floreat EAA in Aeternum
I have been a volunteer at EAA since May 2004. At that time, my primary aim was to improve and maintain my Estonian language. I have a BA in Fine Arts (Sydney University) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Photography (Sydney College of the Arts). I am now a retired teacher and have worked in the United Kingdom, France, Israel, Vietnam, Korea and of course Estonia.
My responsibilities in the Archive focus on the photography collection photographs, albums, slides, negatives etc. and the book collection (fiction and non fiction). My main concern is to preserve the achievements of Estonians in Australia and to help to develop a system enabling researchers to access information easily, both physically and online. My work has been greatly enhanced by attending archival summer schools in Estonia and working with visitors from various Estonian history institutions.
I have learned a tremendous amount over the years and have formed many long lasting friendships. I not only consider myself part of the archives ‘family’ in Australia but also the wider archives family in Estonia itself.
I am a retired teacher, an Estonian of course! And interested in Estonian culture.
I have been aware of the Archive since my schooldays, when with my mother, we used to visit Dr Hugo Salasoo at Lidcombe, where the archives were then housed. Dr Salasoo was the archivist for decades and he always used to have something of interest ready for us to look at when we visited. Later, when I was doing a uni assignment on aged care for immigrants, Dr Salasoo was very helpful in providing me with material for my work on the Estonia Retirement Village.
So now that I’m retired, I feel I can give a little bit back, along the way finding some very interesting books and materials to read…..plus, it’s very nice to meet up with old and new friends and hear what is happening in the wider Estonian community.
Thank you Maie now, and Dr Salasoo in the past, for all you have done in keeping alive the history of Estonians, both here in Australia and in Estonia.
I was invited to join the Council as Treasurer back in 2018. Besides looking after the monies, I have come to the realisation that the Archive has vast amounts of documents, personal papers and artefacts especially from DP camps.
Having never worked in an archive environment before, I have enjoyed learning the detail in preserving the huge amount of archival material that is held. My work so far has been scanning and labelling the ID cards of the pre-war Estonian immigrants, going through the vast amount of documents that are held from various Estonian Society organisations around Australia and keeping the computer system operational.
I have been involved with the Estonian Community since the early 60’s with attending Estonian School, folk dancing, singing in choirs, attending Sõrve Children’s camp, helped in organising Archive’s latest exhibition- “The Great Escape”- and being on the Board of Directors for Estonian House Co-operative Society Ltd which maintains Estonian House.
It is a privilege to be associated with my fellow volunteers with their knowledge and dedication in preserving the history of Estonian in Australia and I have great pleasure in working alongside them.
I was born in Estonia and came to Australia in 1949, To fulfil my 2 year work contract I worked in a hospital as an orderly. After the contract finished, I started at an engineering works, but soon moved to Kingsford Smith Flying School where I assembled and repaired light aircraft. Following jobs in the railways and a car plant I started a long career in the oil refining business. I found the work technically exotic and exciting and worked there in various capacities until I retired.
In retirement I reconnected more closely with the Estonian Society in Sydney. In recent years I started volunteering in the Estonian Archives which gives me opportunities to keep in touch with fellow volunteers of Estonian background, visitors and more importantly, a chance to speak Estonian.
The great source of interesting material I come across working in the Archive makes my almost weekly trips to Estonian House most satisfying.
I am currently creating a database of the records of Estonian organisations in Australia.
Kristi Barrow - Digital
I have always been involved in the Estonian community in Australia. My first memories include learning to count to 10 in Estonian with my grandparents, learning to bake a Kringel (Estonian Sweet Bread) with my Godmother Reet and attending the Estonian summer camp Sõrve.
I’ve been passionate about all things digital, ever since I saw my first web page on the computer at my school’s library. I designed the first web page for the EAA back in 2001!
I often help out at the Archive with any IT or computer issues. I really enjoyed helping the Archive bring to life their fascinating collection online with this new website.
Lachlan Bell - Design
Growing up immersed in the Sydney Estonian community, I’ve always had an interest in our community’s history and our story. After being on numerous teams and committees in the community, being introduced to the Archive has helped me expand my awareness of our cultural heritage and given context to what we do here.
I wanted to give back by putting my graphic design and technical skills to practice use.
I hope to continue offering assistance and thank the team at the Archive for the insurmountable task they’ve undertaken and hope to continue assisting them into the future in relaying our story to the next generation.