Holt's briefcase preserved for posterity

Media release: Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Harold Holt's briefcase, which the former prime minister took to Portsea on the weekend he went missing, is on display in the National Archives in Canberra.

A new film on Holt's disappearance, to be screened on ABC on Thursday 23 October, shows the prime minister clutching his briefcase on his last trip to his holiday home.

'This briefcase had a key role in Australia's history,' said Zoe D'Arcy, director of public programs at the National Archives. 'We are very grateful to the Holt family who donated the briefcase and its contents to us some years ago to ensure its preservation for future generations.'

Conservators at the National Archives have created customised preservation containers to ensure the contents remain in optimum conditions.

The brown leather briefcase, monogrammed with the metallic initials HEH, is part of the Archives' Memory of a Nation exhibition. Its contents included bank deposit books, tax returns, power of attorney documents, shares and other legal documents. The middle pocket contained photocopies of official and other papers, Holt's salary payment, bank statements, cheque butts and a Victoria Amateur Turf Club Member's Car Pass. A zip pocket included coins, combs, cigars, fountain pen, medications and other personal effects.

'The National Archives holds many official and private items relating to Harold Holt, as well as an extensive photographic collection,' said Ms D'Arcy.

Digitised on the National Archives' website are many Holt documents including the original manuscript of the report on Holt's disappearance, the official papers contained in his briefcase at the time of his disappearance on 17 December 1967, and condolence letters sent to his family after his disappearance.

The website also provides access to a free online research guide to Harold Holt's records and to his biography by Tom Frame which the National Archives co-published.

Also on display in the Memory of a Nation exhibition at the National Archives in Canberra is a copy of the police re-enactment film of the day he went missing.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017