Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Treasure Trove

The National Library of Australia safeguards one of Australia’s most important living archives. Paul Hagon, CC BY-NC-ND

Mike Jones, Deb Verhoevan, Treasure Trove: why defunding Trove leaves Australia poorer, The Conversation, 26 February 2016

All swashbuckling pirates (and movie producers) know that if you want to find the treasure buried beneath the elusive X you first need a map. A charred fragment is no good: fortune only comes to those who hold enough pieces to follow the trail.

The National Library of Australia’s Trove service is that map for anyone wanting to navigate the high seas of information abundance. (You don’t even need to be a pirate.)

But our information plundering days may soon be over. Recently announced “efficiency dividends” mean that aspects of the Trove service will be scratched.

The news that Trove will face cuts has led to an outpouring of support on social media, with several thousand tweets using the #fundTrove hashtag.

So what exactly will we lose?

Trove pulls together metadata and content from multiple sources into one platform to make finding what you are looking for an efficient and successful experience.

As of February 25 2016, this includes information on over 374,419,217 books, articles, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives, datasets and more, expressing the extraordinarily rich history of Australian culture.

If, as someone interested in museums, I am looking for information on Sir Frederick McCoy, inaugural director of the National Museum of Victoria, a single Trove search reveals not just books and articles.

I’ll find information on archival collections at the State Library of Victoria and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, biographical entries from the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Encyclopedia of Australian Science, digital photographs, transcribed newspaper obituaries and images of documents such as a Geological Survey of Victoria map to which McCoy contributed.

Distributed content is available within seconds. The benefits to researchers, local and family historians, and the Australian community as a whole, is immense, resulting in over 70,000 unique visitors a day.

Yet, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday, staff have been told the federal government’s “efficiency dividend” will have a “grave impact” on the National Library. Aside from inevitable staff cuts,

The library will also cease aggregating content in Trove from museums and universities unless it is fully funded to do so.

This is the information equivalent to leaving money, or treasure, on the table.

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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