In mid-January Rosalie Triolo and I accompanied VCE Australian History teachers to some of our key national cultural institutions in Canberra hunting for resources for their students. Most institutions were managing on very tight budgets due to an ‘efficiency dividend’ placed on all cultural institutions by recent governments. Only the Australian War Memorial seem to be in good health and expanding massively in three directions on its site.
Of most relevance to the history sector is the National Library of Australia. This is a wonderful institution with great collections, and like other cultural bodies, willing to share them with all Australians, especially students at all levels across the country through its digital classrooms.
The Australian National Library is the home of Trove, the aptly named digital archive which now hosts 6 billion items and is visited 22 million times a year, placing it with the ABC in the top 15 Australian digital domains. It is the go-to site for all researchers, be they family historians and genealogists, community history researchers, journalists, policy makers or academics. Trove is also the way many cultural institutions, large and small (including the RHSV), reveal their catalogues and thus collections to a global audience.
Just on Christmas, which is why I and many others missed it, came an announcement from the ANL that it may have insufficient funds to continue Trove from this July. See The Conversation 23 December 2022 https://theconversation.com/troves-funding-runs-out-in-july-2023-and-the-national-library-is-threatening-to-pull-the-plug-its-time-for-a-radical-overhaul-197025
This is truly disturbing news. Trove democratises knowledge, bringing it to all Australians who cannot travel to institutions to access resources. It is an essential tool in today’s knowledge economy and worth every cent spent on it. It should not, it must not perish or be degraded. It is currently clunky and needing an upgrade.
The government is currently reviewing cultural policy so it would be a travesty if Trove is degraded or worse at this time. If you are as concerned as I and many others are about this, please write to the Honourable Tony Burke, Minister for the Arts PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 or email Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au
Refer to the value of Trove to you and your organisation. Remind the minister how it has revolutionised research and democratised knowledge. And reiterate that if Australia is to have a vibrant cultural policy for tomorrow, Trove is an essential tool in sharing Australia’s stories and identities.
Emeritus Professor Richard Broome AM