Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 9, 2023

The Importance of Trove, and the National Archives

As Australian readers may know, there is an impending funding crisis for Trove:

The National Library is threatening to pull the plug on Trove, its free online service that provides public access to collections from Australian libraries, universities, museums, galleries and archives. (Read more about it at The Conversation.)

Regular readers know that I am not into what has been described as Anzackery. Nor am I interested in family history, tracing back generations of people about whom nothing is known apart from their BDM dates.  But on the one and only day I attended an Anzac service, I thought of the people in the family archives.  Many years ago my first mother-in-law told me about them as we travelled to Swan Hill to visit her sister. It is through Trove that I have been able to confirm and expand on her family story.

Her family came from Western Victoria, and when WW1 was declared, her uncles and grandfather did their bit.  Trove offers free public access to The Bendigonian newspaper of 4 July 1918 — which recorded, under the headline, ‘A Patriotic Family, Father and Five Sons Enlist’, that having been repatriated after service in the Sinai Desert and elsewhere, her grandfather James didn’t pass the medical when he tried to re-enlist in 1918.  But his son Robert, aged 19, was accepted, joining his brothers: Leonard, a trooper in the Imperial Camel Corps in Palestine; Jim, with the 8th Light Horse in Palestine, and John with the 6th Battalion in France. Their brother Albert, a private in the 14th Battalion, had died of wounds near Amiens on the Western Front in May.

Imagine the anxiety of my mother-in-law’s grandmother…

Albert, when he died, had just had his 21st birthday, and the armistice was only months away. He was (would have been) the great-great uncle of The Offspring on the paternal side.

What follows — found at Trove — is a letter from Albert Victor Green (1896-1918), sent from Gallipoli in 1915.  It was published in the ‘Birchip Advertiser and Watchem Sentinel’ of 26 January 1916, under the headline ‘Letter from the Front’ presumably because a proud member of his family shared it.  It was newsy, cheerful, patriotic and optimistic — possibly influenced by censorship either at the front or at the newspaper — but the tone and the intimate details are authentic.  It’s a poignant letter to read now.

I downloaded it from Trove 26 Jan 1916 – Letter from the Front. (nla.gov.au) and edited it offline for scanning errors but no spelling or grammar has been corrected.

Letter from the Front.

The following letter has been received by us from Trooper A V Green,

‘November, 19, 1915,

Dear Brother, —I am writing a lot of letters and getting no answers to them. Well, Len*, I have got to the – front at last.  I am in the trenches 48 hours, and 48 hours out. We don’t see many Turks, as they keep their heads pretty well down, and so do we. The bullets are not too bad, but I don’t like the shells. They both fly about in all directions. I saw Jack Bridges the other day, and my mate Rube McPhee is in the hospital. I had hard luck not to see the dad* — he went through the hospital when I was in it, and just missed going into the ward I was in. I have not seen him yet; he is also at Gallipoli. There are about 15 of us here with cousins and all. Jack Bridges and all the others are camped in Shrapnel Gully, and we are camped in Monash Gully. Bill Heavy is over here, and Les Bevan is in Alexandria. I like being here. We get good tucker, and it is not as bad as some make out. A man is unlucky if he gets hit. I expect to have Xmas dinner in the trenches.

There is dug-outs all over the hills. I hope Birchip is sending a few more men to help us. I expected a periscope from Jim*, he wrote and said he was sending one. Remember me to all.

-Yours, etc.,

ALBERT VICTOR GREEN.

  • ‘Len’ is his brother Leonard, because he is still at home in 1915.  AWM records show that he enlisted with other reinforcements in 1917 and embarked for Palestine in May.
  • ‘the dad’ who ‘went through the hospital’ at the same time is his father who enlisted aged 44 in February 1915.
  • ‘Jim’ is his brother who survived the war but died of the ‘Black Flu’ in 1926.

Why does access to Trove matter?  Most of the Australian LitBloggers who give freely of their time to add to Australia’s cultural capital and its literary history have our blogs archived at Pandora which can be found via Trove.  We can’t count on the hosting platform being there forever.  We ought to be able to count on Australian archives to ensure that our work isn’t lost. (If you think this is self-aggrandisement, well, one of my reviews about the work of a significant Australian author has already been discussed in an academic tome published a few years ago.) But the Pandora archive is just one example, like the example of the story of Albert Victor Green.  You can read more about how Trove matters to LitBloggers at Whispering Gums, in an article from the last time Trove was fighting a battle for funding, in 2016.

Trove matters because it’s one of our cultural institutions, of value not just for the idle curiosity of families interested in their past, but to researchers, historians, authors and students.  You only need to browse its Twitter feed or visit its Home Page to get an idea of the treasures it offers.

To do your bit to ensure that the decision-makers understand how much funding for Australia’s cultural policy matters, contact the Minister Tony Burke MP.


Image source: Australian War Memorial


Responses

  1. I have used Trove in the limited Australian historical research I have done – very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have used Trove for family-related announcements from early last century. I’ve done some editing there as well. I’ll contact Tony Burke.

    Like

    • Thanks Jennifer!
      I tried to register last night when messing about this and I had all kinds of clunky password issues. It didn’t like it (14 characters, come on!), I changed it, it didn’t register the change (even when I used a different browser), I changed it again and that didn’t work either so in the end I gave up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just logged into Trove to make sure my password still works (it does, thankfully) and I’ve sent an eMail to Tony Burke.

        Like

        • Great!
          I’ll try again… I think the problem probably is that I tried to register ages ago and it’s recognising the email address.

          Like

  3. I’m very pleased you’re bringing the Trove situation to the attention of your readers. In my opinion the continued (and improved) funding of this priceless resource is of the greatest significance from so many perspectives. I guess I’m as good an example of many: female, a ‘ten-pound Pom’ (often ‘whingeing’), a writer, a librarian, Jewish, curious (but not obsessive) about my late husband’s Australian ancestry back in the 1800s; of course there’s a convict! During my life here – I arrived in 1957 – I’ve been aware of profound changes in Australian society. These have all been reflected in the press and without the free access via Trove we would not be in a position to review how far we’ve come and assess how much further we need to travel. We should recall the librarians’ creed, ‘Information is power’.

    Like

    • LOL Ros, when I did some FamHist back when I was married to the Ex, I always used to say that while his lot were respectable Cornish farmers, they made up for that with one of their prosperous descendants who was mates with, and likely as ‘bent’ as, the notorious land speculator Premier Tommy Bent!

      Like

  4. Thanks for the link Lisa … I’m using Trove in tonight’s MM and was going to mention this but now I might just link to this. The whole cultural org landscape is a worry .. NGA is talking reduced hours and entrance fees, etc.

    Like

    • I’ve tweeted to Tony Burke, asking what’s happening, but (a) it’s holidays and (b) it’s all about The Voice at the moment.
      I watched (listened to?) the ASA video (podcast?) of Burke re the cultural policy and their response was that they were much encouraged re the new government’s attitude to the arts and books and writing in particular, but I haven’t heard anything other than that via my usual sources so I think it’s all ‘in the pipeline’.
      But I won’t be surprised if they introduce a charge, like they have for British sites much loved by people doing family history. The national debt is ginormous, and there will be casualties as they try to rein in spending. My guess is that institutions will have free or near-free access, but individuals may have to pay.
      What makes me cross is that the AWM (and its clunky website) appears to be safe as houses.

      Like

      • Makes us all cross! Particularly us Canberrans! The Friends of the NFSA have been in touch with Tony Burke’s office but we heard more more before they were elected than since. If they charge me to use Trove I hope they discount according to the editing one does. I did quite a bit last night!

        The Voice is important, but it’s all interrelated – the arts and cultural institutions communicate ideas Abbott these issues don’t they!

        Like

        • Well, it’s like the AustLit site, you know. Yes, you can access it through various institutions but it’s not like Trove currently is, where you can just get at it without any messing about.
          I guess there’s an argument that these things cost money and someone has to pay and not necessarily the taxpayer when the rationale isn’t so clear as, say, health care, but still, it would be nice, at least, to know what’s happening…

          Like

          • Yes, though I see AustLit as being a bit different in being University sponsored so not quite so directly mandated to serve the general community the way our cultural institutions are. Their role is to collect, preserve and make available our heritage.

            Like

  5. Thanks for the link Lisa – I shall certainly send a message to Tony Burke, as will my husband. It is indeed a priceless resource and one which must be preserve.

    Like

    • Thanks, Eleanor, let’s bombard the minister. I have no doubt that they are working even during the holidays, just not responding so that they can get on with things…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve emailed Tony Burke just now with a copy to my local member. I’ve stressed that access to free information is a democratic right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m willing to bet the NLA is just making noise ahead of the upcoming budget and by 16 May or whenever, everything will be ok.

    Like

    • Such cynicism, from one so young!

      Like

  8. ‘We get good tucker…’ There is so much social history in that one clause.

    I will email Tony Burke.

    Like

  9. “Anzackery”made me laugh so much that my wife had to sedate me with a double Scotch.

    Like

  10. […] a post in support of it when its survival was threatened. Well, it’s under threat again, and Lisa posted on it today. She references an(other) article in The Conversation that addresses not only the situation […]

    Like

  11. I’ve never used Trove but I can see how it’s loss would be a terrible blow to researchers, both amateur and professional alike. I’ll email Mr Bourke!

    And seconding Tony’s comment about “Anzackary” – first time I’ve heard the word! It’s brilliant!

    Like

    • It was published a while ago round about the centenary, but if you can get hold of James Brown’s book Anzac’s Long Shadow, you’ll learn a lot about how destructive it is, from a professional soldier’s PoV.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. […] apoyándolo cuando su supervivencia se vio amenazada. Bueno, está bajo amenaza de nuevo, y Lisa lo publicó hoy. Ella hace referencia a un (otro) artículo en La conversación que aborda no solo la […]

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