Irreplaceable first-hand pieces of the Hunter's history, that's what Gionni Di Gravio deals in - and he calls it "heaven".
The University of Newcastle archivist is being recognised for more than two decades of service to that history with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
"It's a very humbling sort of thing - I thought you had to be a lot older," the 56-year-old told the Newcastle Herald.
"It was a shock. Obviously you feel wonderful that people have nominated you, but you also think about all the things that you wished could be achieved."
When a job came up in 1996 dealing with the records of historic Hunter coal company J&A Brown, it seemed at first to the inexperienced Mr Di Gravio like it was going to be just that - a job.
But it didn't take long for him to become hooked on the work.
"I didn't know anything about archives at the time, it was a junior position and I'd only walked past here a few times and noticed a whole lot of lever-arched files," he said.
"I was getting into the unknown.
"Anyway, when I landed in here I thought it was just heaven. Just the access to primary sources, looking after things when it's been a miracle that they've survived.
"[It] is about knowing who we are and what we're capable of, because it sort of affects where we go next."
As part of the Australian Society of Archivists, the Mayfield man has represented GLAM Peak (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), convened the university archives special interest group, been a national councillor and edited the society's newsletter.
Mr Di Gravio was made chair of the Coal River Working Party/Hunter Living Histories Initiative in 2007 and has been patron of the Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society since 2010.
He received the Heritage Volunteer Award from the NSW Department of Environment that same year.
At the University of Newcastle, he has been a driving force behind the digitisation of archives, with a focus on high quality versions that are free and widely accessible - he was a pioneer in a time when institutions were only making low resolution copies of material available to the public for a fee.
During his time, sources from the Hunter archives have been made available on platforms that were previously thought of as unlikely access points, like Flickr.
"Archivists, we deal in originals and we can never really replace any of this," Mr Di Gravio said.
"What goes out there and is shared, as far as I'm concerned, is an insurance policy.
"Because we were small, we just did these experiments and got there. We were just dangerous and did it.
"It reaches millions of people around the world - for every image that gets out, that's an advert for Newcastle and its people."
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