Deborah’s PhD thesis ‘Kaleidoscopic archives: finding hidden histories in the Pacific records of the Australian Joint Copying Project’ examined how London Missionary Society records were created, preserved, curated, and disseminated from 1861 to 2022. She considered how materials that originated on the mission fields of Rarotonga and Papua evolved from paper documents of remote Oceania missions to Imperial records of the LMS in London, before becoming microfilm artefacts of Australia’s post-war political and historical interests in the Australian Joint Copying Project. Paying particular attention to the AJCP phase of the LMS records, this thesis weaves analysis of documents from the mission fields and the formation of archives with the writing of Pacific histories, to explore issues of gender and identity.
Deborah’s research draws heavily on scholarship concerning the ‘archival turn’ of the last ten years. The research of the historian Arlette Farge and the anthropologist and historian Ann Laura Stoler have significantly informed her research. She is very interested in the history of surrogate archives, and the relationships formed between historians, librarians and archivists. She considers the long series of choices made in relation to these documents, and how they influence historians today.
In 2023 she will conduct research at the State Library of New South Wales as CH Currey Fellow concerning the ‘archive of the archivist’, Phyllis Mander-Jones. She received a National Library of Australia Summer Scholarship in 2022 to examine the Australian Joint Copying Project.