Objectively speaking

Objectively speaking
Objects in the Library
22 July 2010

The National Library has an interesting and diverse collection of weird and wonderful objects originating from the earliest voyages to Australia and the Pacific to more recent events. These objects may have been acquired due to their association with prominent people, for example Captain Cook's bureau and Ben Hall's revolver, or have more humble origins such as memorabilia from a boy scouts' jamboree. They provide an insight into Australia's history and culture and are mainly housed in the Library's heritage collections. The Pictures Collection has about 1300 catalogued objects with 50% of these digitised and able to be viewed through either the Library's catalogue or Trove . These catalogue records are indexed using subject terms from the Libary of Congress Subjects Headings list (LCSH), developed in the United States with an American context and spelling, so it doesn't always provide either suitable terms to describe objects in our collections, or terms that are in common usage in Australia. The Library wants to make searching for objects in the catalogue more straightforward so we were very pleased when the Powerhouse Museum published their Objects thesaurus online last year making it available to other institutions. This thesaurus contains about 8600 terms with an Australian focus. Recently the Library started a project to upgrade our object catalogue records with terms from the thesaurus and examples we will be using include: Aboriginal breastplates, wartime badges, and engraved emu eggs.

Aboriginal engraved king plate

Aboriginal king plate engraved with 'Tallboy, King of Moorabie'

Where the Library holds significant numbers of items in a category for example, medals, coins and cameras, the new terms will be added to catalogue records using an automated process. For categories with fewer items we will review and update each catalogue record with the most appropriate term from the thesaurus. The Powerhouse Museum welcomes recommendations for additions to the thesaurus so we will be able to ask them to include specific terms relevant to our current collections and for any objects acquired in the future.

Carved emu egg on silver-plate and wood stand

Carved emu egg on silver-plate and wood stand with fern, kangaroo and emu decoration