Opening of a purpose built archive is perhaps the most significant achievement of the 45 year history of the York Society Inc.

The building's official opening was carried out on Saturday, April 13 by prominent local resident, Sir William Heseltine.

The archive designed by Society life member, Graham Fisher, was funded from a grant of $200,000 from the Shire of York and $278,578 from Lotterywest. It was the culmination of work started by local historian, the late Shirley Lutze, in 1986. Mrs Lutze was responsible for cataloguing a collection of historic documents and photographs given to the Society for safekeeping.

The collection grew rapidly to a stage requiring specialized storage. The collection was housed in a number of places over the years including the old Courthouse, the Town Hall and the Convent.

In his address to a group of about 120 who gathered for the opening, York Society president Bill Roy, paid tribute to those who managed the collection over the years including the late Hal Nicholson, the late Tony Clack, Dilys Bailey and currently Julie Rae.

"It was a long held ambition of the Society to establish a permanent home for the historic records. "A breakthrough in funding for the project came with the sale in 2009 of the old convent where the archive was being housed.  "The Shire allocated $200,000 from the sale towards an archive building. "The Society decided to locate the building on land at the Sandalwood Yards which it owned freehold," he said.

An application to Lotterywest obtained a further $278,578 which allowed design and construction of the building to go ahead. It was largely finished by the end of last year. The records were moved from the old convent last month in readiness for the official opening, Mr Roy said

The building features a fireproof document storage room, passive environment control, design to complement the existing streetscape, wide eaves, double glazing and flow through ventilation. Other features include galvanized corrugated cladding, rainwater collection and storage, polished concrete floor as well as state of the art equipment. "The archives were a long time in the making, a modern building for the future for preservation of the past," he said.

Shire president, Cr Tony Boyle, congratulated the York Society on achieving its long held aim of a permanent home for the York archive. It was pleased to have contributed to the preservation of York's rich history, he said.

Representative from Lotterywest, Sheila Hood, said her organization was proud to have supported the York Society in its quest to preserve York's history. "The archives are in good hands," she said.

Following the opening of the archive building in York, (L-R) York Society president, Bill Roy, archivist Julie Rae, guest of honour Sir William Heseltine, Shire president Cr Tony Boyle and Lotterywest representative, Sheila Hood.

ABOVE: Part of the crowd gathered for the opening of the new archive building at the Sandalwood Yards in York. BELOW: Sir William Heseltine, unveiling the commemorative plaque at the opening of the archive building in York.

Guest of honour, Sir William Heseltine, said as the Queen's private secretary he had been keeper of her private archives. The archives of the reigning king or queen only dated back to 1911 following Queen Victoria's death in 1901 and had only recently found a secure, permanent home in the tower at Windsor Castle.

In reference to the new archive building in York, Sir William said, "I believe this is the York Society's greatest achievement. "It is reassuring to see something worthwhile come of my weekly investment in a lottery ticket," he joked.

Lindsay McNeill