The final collection of Selbys records in the Noel Butlin Archives Centre has been listed on our database
Selbys specialised in the manufacture, import and supply of scientific instruments, laboratory apparatus, chemicals and industrial and process control equipment. It originated in 1897, when Melbourne university student Carl de Beer first imported scientific glassware from Germany. His small venture grew to become a successful public company run by the Selby family until it was overcome by a triple takeover in 1982.
The archive is a rich and deep source of information about many facets of the company’s history. It would be of interest to researchers of business and employment in the twentieth century, including during the Great Depression and both World Wars; and the history of scientific instrumentation, education and research. There are insights into the vicissitudes of Australia’s relationship with Germany, including the change of family name from Silberberg to Selby during the First World War, and reports and correspondence from business visits to Germany, including in 1937. Training memos and manuals illustrate the attention Selbys’ gave to customer service, and, occasionally ribald in nature, staff newsletters show changing norms in workplace communication.
ANU historian Dr Samuel Furphy drew on the archive for his history of the company, Selbys the Science People (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2005).