About the records

Title Records of Dunn, Peter (1928-2000)
Date Range 1878 - 2013
Reference MS 15452
Creator Dunn, Peter (1928 - 2000)
Extent 13 metres (900 items)
Repository State Library of Victoria
Abstract Archive of Dr Peter Dunn, Australian defence scientist. Includes records relating to polymer chemistry and materials research; Operation Buffalo (1956 atomic test, Maralinga); and UN chemical weapons investigations in Iran and Iraq during the 1980s-1990s.

Administrative Information

  • The collection is comprised of records from 22 accessions. The codes used to uniquely identify each accession range from DUNN2001-001 to DUNN2013-001.
  • The records have been allocated to 17 series. The codes used to uniquely identify each series range from DUNS0001 to DUNS0017.
  • Through the processing of the records, 2 provenance entities were identified. The codes used to uniquely identify each provenance entity, i.e. records creator or custodian, range from DUNP001 to DUNP002.
  • The inventory covers 900 items, and may include records of continuing value, records sentenced for destruction and records that have been destroyed. The codes used to uniquely identify each inventory item range from DUNN00001 to DUNN00926. The total collection occupies 1,300 linear cm of shelf space (or its equivalent).
  • The documentation of the records at inventory level started on 11 January 2012. The latest additions were made on 27 November 2013. The latest modifications were made on 1 April 2014. This collection profile was updated on 14 July 2014.

Scope and Content

The heart of this collection of records created and compiled by Peter Dunn is the documentation of Peterís work for the United Nations in relation to the use by Iraq of chemical weapons against Iran, initially in the context of the Gulf War. This work began for Dunn in March 1984 when he volunteered to be the Australian member of a team of four to visit Iran and investigate allegations concerning the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iranian military personnel and civilians. Peter Dunnís role in this United Nations mission was as military chemist. He made subsequent visits to Iran in 1986 and (also to Iraq) 1987. Dunn also had responsibility for compiling the mission reports for these visits. Then in June 1991, Dunn led the United Nations Special Commission mission into Iraq to investigate their chemical warfare operations and facilities. Dunn later recalled this first UNSCOM visit to Iraq as a difficult, demanding and traumatic exercise. It led to subsequent UNSCOM missions to oversee the destruction of the vast quantities of mustard gas, nerve gas and precursor chemicals, as well as munitions, plants and storage facilities in Iraq. These missions were carried out between 1992 and 1994. From 1993 to 1997, Dunn was the Australian Representative (or Commissioner) at UNSCOM and Coordinator of the Chemical and Biological Working Group.

Relevant records in the Dunn Collection include five inter-related series of assorted papers (Series' 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). These series' include official reports including inspection reports and Working Group reports, UNSCOM Plenary Session papers, Security Council documents, correspondence and news clippings, among other papers. Peter Dunn kept detailed notes of his fieldwork in Iran and Iraq, including of those missions where he acted as a UN chemical weapons inspector, and these are housed across multiple seriesí in the collection. For these diaries and notebooks, see in particular Series 3, Series 5 and Series 6, and see also Series 9.

The collection also houses a very rich visual record of the United Nations and UNSCOMs' work in Iran and Iraq. This includes photograph albums compiled by Peter Dunn of a number of missions (as well as other overseas visits) (Series 10), as well as many loose photographs, slides, transparencies, and audio and video cassettes (Series 11). Many of the slides and transparencies (also called viewfoils) in the collection were used by Peter Dunn in the countless presentations he delivered to help raise awareness among the scientific community and the public about the importance of chemical weaponsí disarmament.

The collection also documents Peter Dunnís role as a public servant and scientist working for the Commonwealth government. Dunn began working at the Defence Standards Laboratories in Maribyrnong, Victoria, in 1951. In 1976 he became Superintendent of the Organic Chemistry Division, and he also worked on numerous subsequent occasions as acting Director of the Laboratories (which were renamed the Materials Research Laboratory in 1974). Of particular note are the records of Dunnís involvement in the testing by the British military of nuclear devices at Maralinga, South Australia between 1955 and 1963 (priincipally Series 2).

Other subjects documented in the Dunn Collection include Peterís involvements in The Technical Co-operation Programme (TTCP). The collection contains a variety of objects and artefacts, including items of technical apparatus and weapons inspection field samples (Series 16).

A comprehensive and meticulously organised personal archive, the collected files of Dr Dunn provide a valuable insight into the life and work of a man whose contributions to the fight against chemical weapons were, in the words of Richard Butler, 'unique in the present period of world history' [Jodi de Cesare, ĎUnsung Heroí, The Sunday Tasmanian, 18 May 1997].

Main source used to compile this Scope and Content note: 'Peter Dunn - His Life and Interests', compiled by Peter Dunn, 1 August 1999, contained on eSRC Project File.

Archival processing of the Dunn Collection

The archival processing of the Dunn Collection was carried out by the eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne. The accessioning of the collection took place in 2001-2003, when the bulk of the records were boxed and listed. Archival processing resumed in 2012, with inventory listing and serialisation completed in 2013. Digitisation of parts of the collection also took place at this time. The documenting and partial digitisation of the collection involved a team of archivists and other staff members. Due to the extended time-period and the number of people involved in listing the collection, there is some variation in the listing procedures employed in the Guide to Records of Peter Dunn. This includes, for example, conventions around file titles. The general procedure followed with file titles was to derive each title from the records themselves. In cases where file titles were imposed in the process of listing the records, this is flagged in the item listing for the file in question.

Note regarding terminology

The Dunn Collection includes many records pertaining to the conflict between Iran and Iraq between 1980 and 1998. Terms in use in the media and other public sources at the time to refer to this conflict included the 'Gulf War' and the 'Iran-Iraq War'. Both terms have been used in this Guide to Records. This Guide also reflects the use of the term 'Gulf War' to describe the war waged during 1990 to 1991 by an international force led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

Published by the eScholarship Research Centre, The University of Melbourne,
Listed by Ann McCarthy, Antonina Lewis, Anna Russell, Elizabeth Daniels, and Arlie McCarthy
HTML edition
Updated 14 July 2014

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