Treasured voices at the National Library of Australia
20 August 2021
The National Library of Australia’s digitisation programme has been running for more than 20 years, with more than 41 million pages now digitised and available online via Trove. The Library is now accelerating these efforts, recognising how dispersed the Australian population is and the impact of the Covid epidemic on travel and access.
Launched in 2019, the National Library of Australia’s Treasured Voices Digitisation Programme aims to ensure a truly national library, removing geographical, economic and other barriers to connect all Australians with their stories. The Australian Government is supporting this ambition by providing $10 million over four years, to digitise the collection and inspire further philanthropic contributions.
A portrait of Dame Nellie Melba receiving treatment in the NLA Preservation lab.
The programme is transforming public access to Australian history and culture by making the most important and impactful parts of our unique national collection accessible to everyone online. Digitised items are freely available online through the digital platform Trove which attracts some 33 million visitors annually, from all over Australia and the world.
The extensive personal papers of General Sir John Monash—equating to nearly 300 boxes of archival material have already been digitised through the Programme, and are available to view online now via Trove. One of Australia’s most renowned military leaders, Monash was highly regarded for his role as a military commander in the First World War and his work as a civil engineer.
Director-General of the National Library of Australia Dr Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA explains that “Sir John Monash was a meticulous record keeper, and his papers reveal the lives of his contemporaries, as well as the era, through eye-witness accounts of significant events as they unfolded. This collection also provides context around Monash’s many professional successes, while still offering an insight into lesser-known aspects of his personal life.”
Currently being digitised for the Treasured Voices Programme are the papers of another significant Australian leader, Sir Robert Menzies. Prime Minster of Australia for an unmatched total of 18 years, Menzies’ papers cover not only his professional political career but also his personal interests, family photographs and a number of publication drafts.
Sir Robert Menzies’ commission as Prime minister of Australia, 1939.
Covering a period of over 70 years, the more than 600 boxes of material uniquely capture a tumultuous period in the history of Australia, as it continued to define itself as a country and as a people throughout the twentieth century, including during the Second World War. The digitisation of this collection offers a glimpse of the communications between the Allied world leaders including Churchill, but also of what drove and inspired one of our most enduring and revered Prime Ministers on a personal and private level.
Philanthropic funding has also allowed the Library to begin digitising some of its fantastic performing arts collections, including those relating to soprano Dame Nellie Melba, one of Australia’s most famous performers. The Library has material relating to Melba in several collections including Monash’s. Two deposits that include letters written by Melba and autographed photographs are now online; MS 9331 and MS 9561, with more performing arts material to be added to Trove later this year and in the future.
The digitisation of these collections are the first milestones in this very important Programme that promises to bring Australian’s cultural history to them, everywhere, for all time.