I read with great disappointment about the funding cuts at the National Library of Australia, including its flagship digital archive, Trove.

Trove has always been at the forefront of work to to share and publish digital cultural heritage.


Its tremendous newspapers collection work demonstrates that digitising historical sources can have wide public impact. Musty documents, when digitised, are not just for fusty scholars but for those interested in animal accidents, knitting patterns, cricket scores and any kind of odd historical quirk. The quantity and quality of usage are outstanding.

Trove also shows the way for crowdsourcing. It is one of the very first libraries to ask users to transcribe and correct OCR (Optical Character Recognition) text, and they have done so in great abundance.

But Trove is not just newspapers. A whole range of content from across Australia is included – records, books, maps, photos, diaries, letters, sounds.

Many digital libraries have attempted to aggregate such material and provide compelling friendly interfaces. Trove is one of the few where searching through such a heterogeneous range of material seems natural.

In the 1950s and 60s, Australian writers spoke of the cultural cringe, the feeling that their work would always be judged as inferior and in subservience to older English and European traditions. Australian culture has moved on fabulously since then, and in the case of Trove, it’s been us in Europe who have looked at Trove and wondered how we could do something as good as that.