In 2011, Max Downes – Victoria's first Game Manager – made his extensive collection of hunting books, documents and records available to the WET Trust for the purposes of establishing an Australian National Hunting Archive.
To this day, Max's passion for hunting has continued and his collection now consists of more than 4500 books, 20,000 documents and a database record of 20 years cataloguing and referencing materials in libraries and archives across the nation. The archive is now Australia's most comprehensive and valuable collection of works on the social history of hunting in any one place throughout the nation.
The Australian National Hunting Archive has been established in suburban Boronia in Victoria, not far from where Max lives, and he continues to work tirelessly to build and expand upon the collection. It is a Research Archive that records and tells the story of how Australian society has relied upon and managed hunting over more than two centuries. The archive will continue to grow as documents and records from as yet untapped sources become available. This includes the contribution made by FGA members and branches over more than 54 years.
Historians, academics and researchers will be invited to make use of the archive and appreciate the enormous contribution hunting and hunters have made to Australian society over the past 225 years.
The archive is the single largest collection of hunting related material in Australia and is the only collection that focuses upon the social and sustainable use aspects of hunting in Australia's history.
"A study of the history of the social interaction of mankind with wildlife is important for understanding the ecology of both man and wildlife. The objective of the Australian Hunting Archive is to collect the hunting literature from Australia's past. This will allow the public to better understand the ecological and social role that hunting wildlife had in the history of this country" – Max Downes
The archive has also received Otto Ruf's collection of deer heads and hunting records. Otto's wife Kath requested that the archive hold and preserve the collection her husband built over decades of hunting in Australia and overseas.
Otto was one of Australia's finest taxidermists. His collection, numbering more than 30 heads, is magnificent. The Collection contains prime examples of mounted deer heads and other heads sourced from around the world. Otto had 30 years involvement in policy development at Branch, State and National levels with the Australian Deer Association Inc. Otto also had over 50 years hunting experience worldwide, including Germany, Australia, Africa, Hungary, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Mongolia.
The Australian National Hunting Archive received the hunting books, papers and photos collected by Arthur Bentley (1915-2011) in 2012 as a donation from his daughter Janet Nolan.
This gift fulfilled Arthur's expressed wish that his experiences as an Australian hunter should be preserved as part of Australia's hunting heritage. It comprises classic books on world hunting, as well as papers and photos which record an Australian hunter's lifetime experiences from the 1930s to the 21st century.
According to Max Downes, the idea for the Australian National Hunting Archive first arose in 2007, when Arthur Bentley and he were rummaging through their books and memorabilia, collected during more than 50 years of game management work in Victoria, Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea and the Antarctic.
Arthur was an inspiration and motivator for game management in Australia. This gift to the Archive was the first contribution from an Australian hunter from the 20th century. It puts into practice the fundamental purpose of the Archive - preserving historical records for the study of hunting as part of Australian environmental history. If it inspires other hunters to contribute in the same way, this will influence the shape of game management in Australia.