For 17 years she has been a key figure in the life of the National Library and, by extension, the musical life of this country.

The National Library of Australia’s Robyn Holmes has announced her retirement. For 17 years, Holmes has been a key figure in the life of the National Library of Australia and, by extension, the musical life of this country.

Robyn graduated from the University in Adelaide in 1975 with an Honours degree in Musicology. She taught in Adelaide for several years before moving to Canberra in 1990 to take up a position at the ANU School of Music. For the next decade she led academic and research programmes there before moving across Lake Burley Griffin to the National Library.

In June 2000, she became the NLA’s first Curator of Music, an innovative move by the NLA which created new Curator positions in both Music and Dance. Almost immediately, Robyn embarked on a tireless campaign to collect, preserve, interpret and expand the national heritage through the acquisitions of the archives of many notable Australian figures, organizations and performing groups. Among the archives acquired by the NLA under her watch were the collections of Sutherland/Bonynge, Moffatt Oxenbould, Symphony Australia, and many composers – notably Peter Sculthorpe, Richard Meale, and many more – as well as reactivating the archive of the Australian Music Centre, the creation of Music Australia, the music component of Trove, research infrastructure, fellowships and scholarships, and the like. For the past few years, following internal reorganisation at the NLA, she was appointed Senior Curator for Pictures and Manuscripts.

For many musicians throughout the country, and Australian musicians overseas, Robyn Holmes has been the go-to person for information about Australian music composition and history.

At the National Conference of the Australian branch of IAML (International Association of Music Libraries and Archives) in Canberra last week, Robyn reviewed her extraordinary career and acknowledged cooperation of music organisations and individuals throughout the country. An appreciative audience of peers and colleagues rewarded her with a standing ovation, flowers and a few tears.

Among the people present to pay tribute was Prue Neidorf, now 80 years old, who was the NLA’s revered Music Librarian for many years, preceding Robyn in the newly conceived role of Curator of Music.

Following her official retirement on December 1, Robyn plans to pause and reflect, embark on new research projects and devote time to her family, notably new two grandsons. She will remain in Canberra and continue her longstanding association with the National Library.