The Avatar’s Abode Trust holds a wide variety of documents and photographs associated with Meher Baba. These include the early development of the Sufi movement linked to Inayat Khan in Australia, Baba’s first visit to Australia in 1956, the development of Avatar’s Abode in 1958, Baba’s visit to Avatar’s Abode in June 1958, the life of His close disciple Francis Brabazon, the relationship between Baba and His early Australian followers and letters between Baba’s early followers and Francis.

Many items from the collection have been digitised and can be accessed using the links below. Original documents have been digitised to PDF and searchable transcriptions of some originals are also available. The website will be updated as materials are catalogued and become ready.

Digital Documents Website

Card to Francis Brabazon from Meher Baba's Mandali

PHOTO: Front of a card from Eruch to Francis, January 18 1971.

The Avatar’s Abode Trust Digital Archives website is a publicly accessible site which is linked to the database in which documents from the estate of mandali member Francis Brabazon, are being catalogued. It includes correspondence between Francis and Meher Baba and with other members of the mandali, talks, manuscripts, poems, ghazals, songs and working drafts by him. Some documents have been transcribed and are shown alongside the original in a searchable PDF format.

Photographs

The Avatar's Abode Photographic Collection includes thousands of photographs which are part of the Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives Collection. The photographs have been extensively catalogued and the photographic website on which they are displayed is searchable by keyword https://avatarsabodecollection.zenfolio.com/

The collection includes photographs of the development of Avatar’s Abode and Baba’s visit to the Abode in 1958, anniversaries celebrated during the 1960s, early Australian Baba lovers, and images collected by Francis Brabazon during his stay in India with Baba from 1959 to 1969.

The Archives

In 1966 the mandali made the following comments about the importance of Baba's articles and archives:

When His close mandali and family are no more, these treasures will be the tangible connection to His physical Advent. In days to come the world will awaken to the fact of His Advent and will be hungry for anything and everything personally associated with Him. — Mani S. Irani

His things are the tangible things that keep His presence alive in our hearts by helping us remember Him. Every little thing keeps His Presence fresh in our hearts. These little things make the Unapproachable approachable. — Eruch Jessawala

If we do not preserve things associated with His Advent, posterity will blame us and we will be failing in our duty towards Him. — Bhau Kalchuri, Preserving the Fragrance at Manzil-e-Meher, p.2

From time to time Baba gave such indications of the enduring value which would emanate from his personal belongings and from the vast written record which accumulated during his lifetime. The importance of caring for and sharing these tangible links with all who seek to learn about Meher Baba, was instilled in his close disciples. Today the Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives continues the twin tasks of preserving and sharing the precious items and records associated with Him and His visits to Australia in 1956 and 1958.

About the Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives

museum quality display cabinets

PHOTO: Museum quality archive display cabinets at Avatar's Abode.

After Baba’s visit to Avatar’s Abode in 1958 the Bruford and Rouse families were asked by Baba to live on the property. Many precious items now in the collection were lovingly cared for and preserved by these two families for over 25 years. Along with items gifted by the mandali to Francis Brabazon, Bill Le Page and other early followers, these precious relics and artefacts are preserved as part of the archives collection and some are displayed in special museum quality display cabinets in Baba’s House, which is open during special occasions and events, and they can also be viewed on request.

When Francis Brabazon died in 1984 he left his estate to the Avatar’s Abode Trust. The three executors, Roy Hayes, Bernard Bruford and Peter Davies spent many years sorting through his papers and sending much original material back to India at the request of the mandali at that time. Photocopies of many documents were retained in the collection. The document collection from Francis has been lovingly rehoused into archival boxes and exceeds 22,000 documents. Hundreds of 78 rpm records and vinyl LP records owned by Francis are also included in the collection. In addition Francis had a large collection of books which now forms the basis of the Francis Brabazon Library, located at Avatar’s Abode.

A unique gift of nearly 1,000 books, booklets, magazines and pamphlets about Meher Baba and His mandali was collected by Jim Migdoll over 40 years and was gifted to the Trust. These publications form the core of the archival book collection and are known as the Jim Migdoll Publications Collection.

The collection includes photographs of the development of Avatar’s Abode and Baba’s visit to the Abode in 1958, anniversaries celebrated during the 1960s, early Australian Baba lovers, and images collected by Francis Brabazon during his stay in India with Baba from 1959 to 1969. Baba himself stressed to His close disciples the importance of preserving the tangible reminders of His advent.

A unique gift to humanity in this particular advent are the photographs and films that are preserving His image for the eyes and hearts of millions. Baba once told Mani that his photos should be spread throughout the world. These things that bear His touch and imprint have the power to touch the heart. They need to be preserved so that future humanity can savour the fragrance of Him that they carry. — Preserving the Fragrance at Manzil-e-Meher, p.4

History of the Archives

Early days

baron frederick von frankenberg

PHOTO: Baron Frederick von Frankenberg.

The earliest origins of Avatar’s Abode Archives lay in documents and a personal library of Baron Frederick von Frankenberg, accumulated in Germany and other parts of Europe c.1900-1920s. This original portion was initially housed at the Baron’s home in Camden (outside Sydney, NSW), where it formed the core resource for Australia’s first Inayat Khan Sufi group. Some of the Archives pertain to this period. This includes Francis’ and the Baron’s correspondence concerning the Sufi group.

In 1950, Francis Brabazon inherited the estate of the Baron, in his role as the head of the Sufi Society. Thereafter, and until 1959, the collection was housed in the building Francis was constructing at Beacon Hill (Meher House, Sydney). This was also Francis’ home.

Francis added items from his earlier (1930s-1940s) life in Melbourne, and books and recordings he acquired in Melbourne, New York and elsewhere during his travels. There is some correspondence in the Archives pertaining to this phase of Francis’ life.

In 1958, Francis moved to Avatar’s Abode and the core of the current collection was moved there. However, he was soon called to India and left Avatar’s Abode in January 1959.

In India, Francis gathered a great deal of materials pertaining to Meher Baba, and Indian spiritual culture. He accumulated such a large quantity of books, personal documents, and manuscripts as reference material for books and poetry he was working on, often on Meher Baba’s request. In addition, Francis collected many photographs and other artefacts and relics during his stay with Baba. On Francis’ return from India (1969), he brought all these to Avatar’s Abode.

1969 to 1984 – additions to the archives during Francis’ residence on Avatar’s Abode

meher baba's sandals at avatar's abode

PHOTO: Meher Baba's sandals at Avatar's Abode.

Once Francis settled into life at Avatar’s Abode, he added many documents, letters and items from other Baba lovers, and especially the Abode families. Thus there are some materials in the Archives representing this stage (until his death in 1984), covering communications with India, the growing Australian Baba movement, and most of all, Francis’ work of writing poems, songs and dramas, developing Avatar’s Abode and its programs of entertainment honouring Meher Baba.

At this time, various historic items and relics pertaining to Meher Baba were still on open display, being not yet especially old or frail. Some were kept in a display cabinet. In 1989 a large cabinet was completed by Michael Walmsley in Baba’s House to display and house clothing items from Meher Baba. These had previously been stored in Baba’s Room.

After Francis’ death in 1984 all his personal papers became part of the Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives. Francis’ estate was stored by the Executors at their homes, whilst most of the book collection and other documents were kept in a room in Francis’ Cabin, which was only accessed at request of individual researchers, or for the work of preservation, sorting and repair, which was conducted by Leigh Rowan, Patricia Saunders, and David and Glenda Hobson.

In 1984, the Abode’s first accessible library was established by Bill Le Page and managed by Judith Garbett in a small building where the current Bookstore stands. Books covering a wide range of spiritual subjects and general interest topics were included. It was built and run by the Meher Baba Australia Foundation and included a small archival component.

1990s and early 2000s – research, reviews and development of archival plan

The Reception Building, 1996, at Avatar's Abode

PHOTO: The Reception Building, 1996, at Avatar's Abode.

In 1996, a Reception Building was finally completed that included rooms for a library, archives and a small room for keeping Baba relics and more vulnerable books and archives. The contents and layout were mostly developed by Sim Symons and Ray Kerkhove, with some input from Robert Rouse.

During the planning period, expert advice on conservation was sought by Ray Kerkhove and Sim Symons (delegated by Avatar’s Abode Trust) visiting Sunshine Coast (Maroochy) Shire Library Services and Queensland Museum (meeting with curator Michael Aird). On the basis of expert recommendations, a dehumidifier was installed, along with open shelving and darkened curtains where appropriate. Textile conservator Michael Morandy visited Baba’s House in 1992.

A preservation report was also prepared by an external consultant in 1996. This examined the state of the collection items – especially fabrics – in Baba’s House.

The Directors of the Avatar’s Abode Trust envisaged Baba’s House having an area that would enable Baba’s personal items to be more accessible to visitors. This led to the development of a climate controlled and secure room in what had originally been the verandah of Baba’s House. Bill Le Page at this time also transferred some of his archives into the main Avatar’s Abode Trust collection.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, under the auspice of Avatar’s Abode Trust, much work was done by Ray Kerkhove, Grania Kelly, David Hobson and Alison Spark to fulfil the Meherazad directive (led by Meheru Irani) that all Baba groups and centres record all they could of their Baba relics and documents. This resulted in correspondence and interviews to better identify and tag Baba relics and also considerable sorting, cataloguing and naming of archival collections.

As part of this process, details of the Abode’s relics were sent to India, as well as a full inventory of Avatar’s Abode’s archival collection contents. The emphasis on preservation also led to the conducting of book preservation and repair workshops by Steve Rooney.

Fortuitously, this was also when Ross Keating and Ray Kerkhove were undertaking extensive research into the Abode collections for their respective Doctoral theses – Keating’s Francis Brabazon: Poet of the Silent Word (published 2002) and Ray Kerkhove’s unpublished Authority and Egolessness in the Emergence and impact of Meher Baba (granted also in 2002). This enabled the discovery of previously lost manuscripts within the collection, including Life in a Hut and the Combined Diary of the earliest (1920s) mandali. Meherabad was alerted and these documents were later published online.

Meanwhile, the three Executors of Francis’ estate systematically reviewed the entire document collection in the two decades after his death. At the request of the mandali in India they sent back much original material and copies of original material that Francis had taken to Australia. Copies of returned material were made and kept in the archives. Patricia Saunders spent several years cataloguing the documents in the collection.

During this period the Baba House Committee was responsible for the artefacts and relics in Baba’s house at Avatar’s Abode. Most of the archival collection was temporarily stored in large plastic bins or folders to alleviate immediate damage from pests or mould but some of the material was given mylar covers and acid free interleafing.

In 2008, Ray Kerkhove was commissioned by Avatar’s Abode Trust to write a Significance Assessment Report on the Francis Brabazon Collection as one of the required preliminaries towards funding and improving public recognition of the collection.

2010 to 2020 – significant progress in archival work

In 2010 a small team including Kaelin Rimmelzwan, Gilad Bakas, and Jim Frisino commenced the digitisation of documents in the collection. Also about this time, Reg Love began the work of transferring much photographic and film material into digital form.

Due to the demise of various early Australian Baba lovers, the Abode archives began receiving various deceased estates. These were sorted, with portions added to the current collection.

Around 2012, Avatar’s Abode Trust arranged for the consultative visit of Fiona Mohr, Director of Regional Museums, for advice on the preservation needs of Avatar’s Abode. Ms Mohr reiterated earlier directives, but from this developed the impetus to better isolate and refrigerate archival film, replace current containers with archival boxes, and extensively interleaf archival documents. David and Glenda Hobson, Marilyn Hopkins and Alison Spark formed a team that conducted this process.

Between 2012 and 2014, through a Sunshine Coast Community Heritage grant organised by Ray Kerkhove, a number of professional workshops on preservation and archiving specific to religious collections were run at Nambour, Avatar’s Abode and Eumundi, enabling upskilling of Abode archival teams and exposure to shared needs. Out of the latter, Ray Kerkhove produced an official assessment including a series of recommendations for Sunshine Coast Council’s heritage team (Spiritual Heritage of the Sunshine Coast: A report to Sunshine Coast Council on religious architecture, art and archival records of the region 2018).

In this same period, David Bowling organised a larger-scale involvement of teams of volunteers at Avatar’s Abode and negotiated the development of a more structured and state-of-the-art archives for Avatar’s Abode. His efforts culminated in 2013 with the Avatar’s Abode Trust creating an Archives Committee to safeguard and preserve for future generations the precious artefacts, relics and archival records of Avatar Meher Baba’s life and advent, especially pertaining to His visit to Avatar’s Abode in 1958. The Committee also aims to preserve items, relics and records associated with the cultural and architectural development of Avatar’s Abode, and to share and enhance appreciation for all these irreplaceable links to Meher Baba’s human form and His time at Avatar’s Abode. Compactus storage was installed in both archive rooms in the Reception Centre and systematic cataloguing of the document collection commenced.

Volunteers digitising rehousing archive documents at Avatar's Abode

PHOTO: Volunteers digitising and rehousing archive documents at Avatar's Abode.

In July 2016 archivist and conservator Sue Chapman, Board Member of the Meher Baba Association from the UK was sponsored by the Trust to visit for a month and conduct training of volunteers on document rehousing. This led to a concerted effort by a small team of volunteers to rehouse the entire Francis Brabazon document collection which was completed in 2019. Digitisation of the Francis document collection also commenced in 2017 and will be completed in 2021. Transcription of documents began in 2016, and is continuing with a team of transcribers.

Jim and Tricia Migdoll worked with great focus and sensitivity on cataloguing and rehousing a large collection of archival books, journals, pamphlets, and printed ephemera, which Jim had earlier donated to the Trust. Jim worked on this until two weeks before he died in 2018. David Hobson was trained by Jim before he died and took responsibility for managing the archival publications as well as the conservation of the film collection. Jim’s dedication was recognised in 2019 when the collection was named the Jim Migdoll Publications Collection.

Francis’ extensive collection of LP records has been carefully cleaned and re-sleeved since 2016 and two specialist curators with extensive experience in the conservation of paintings and art objects manages the small but significant artwork collection.

In 2018 Sue Chapman returned from the UK for a month to assist with rehousing the artefacts and relics on display in the archive room in Baba’s House including Baba’s coat. Jeanette Young worked closely with Sue and took responsibility for managing the cataloguing, conservation, display, and storage of the artefacts and relics collection. A team of volunteers helps with this important work.

In 2020 three new museum quality display cabinets were purchased with the assistance of a grant from the Sunshine Coast Council. These cabinets are used to display collection items in Baba’s House and support long term preservation and display.

Detailed cataloguing of over 2,300 photographs in the collection has been undertaken by Gusi Carpenter since 2010. Some of these images including the early development of Avatar’s Abode and Baba’s visit in 1958 can be viewed online at the Avatar's Abode Photographic Collection avatarsabodecollection.zenfolio.com

Reports

Archives Committee Convenor Annual Report July 2020

Archives_Committee_Convenor_Annual_Report_July_2020.pdf

The Francis Brabazon Collection Significance Assessment Report

In 2008 Dr Ray Kerkhove, a Queensland historian, completed a Significance Assessment of the Francis Brabazon Collection. Download the report at https://avatarsabode.com.au/documents/FB_Significance_Assessment_Report.pdf

Copyright and Fair Use

The Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives safeguard and preserve for posterity the precious articles and the archival records of Avatar Meher Baba’s life and advent, especially His visit to Avatar’s Abode in 1958, and shares these irreplaceable links to His human form with contemporary and future humanity.

Items in the collection may be made available to followers of Meher Baba, as well as scholars, researchers, and the general public. Where items have been digitised, access may be provided to image reproductions of written materials, photographs, images of Baba's belongings, audio, film and video clips.

Although copyright on some collection items is owned by the Avatar’s Abode Trust, others may also be owned by individuals and entities other than, and in addition to the Trust. This is particularly the case in correspondence and other written materials which were sent or given to Meher Baba, His mandali and in particular to Francis Brabazon as the copyrights for those may be held by the authors or their heirs.

All of the images presented on the Archives section of the Avatar’s Abode Trust website are compressed jpegs which have sufficient resolution for computer monitor viewing, but not for any other purposes. This also applies to the PDF format offered for download. Although you may wish to print some images for home use, please keep in mind that the resolution is not sufficient for fine printing and should not be reproduced for distribution or publication. The Avatar’s Abode Trust Archives Committee is endeavouring to make these materials available as quickly as possible, but as time and human resources are limited, it is not currently possible for higher resolution versions to be made available. We request the cooperation of all who view and use these materials, to understand these limitations.

Archival materials on the Avatar’s Abode Trust website have been made available for personal research, teaching, and private study in keeping with the principle of Fair Use. The responsible use of the materials is welcomed, bearing in mind and guided by the care and reverence that the mandali (Baba's close disciples ) have had for everything and anything pertaining to Him, which is the spirit in which the archival items are made available.

Those who avail themselves of these materials must be mindful of the limitations on their use. Some of these limitations derive from copyright law. Baba himself placed great emphasis on the importance of copyright, and the provisions he made in his Last Will and Testament regarding copyright were detailed and definitive.

It is the responsibility of the user to establish who the copyright holder is for any given item and to seek the necessary permission for its use. In any situation where the materials will be accessed by others, proper attribution of the source needs to be provided.

Further information on the copyright of published works of Francis Brabazon may be found in the downloadable Copyright Licence Application and Intellectual Property Policy located at avatarsabode.com.au

If you have any questions about copyright, fair use, how to identify or contact copyright holders, or related matters, email the Archive Committee at avatarsabodearchives@gmail.com