You might have caught our recent blog ‘The Hunt for History’ about the National Library of Australia’s exciting new publication for primary school kids, The Big Book of Australian History. Come with us as we continue our hunt through the collections at the Library for more fascinating items that we—Kate and Jemma—used to illustrate this mammoth book!
Many people have made our Australian history, even if they have never appeared in the history books. Our history makers have invented better tools or machines, developed cures for diseases or ways to control pests that were harming Australia. Some have shown us better ways to care for our land while others have found better ways to care for our people. They have painted pictures or sung songs; they have fought fires, floods and even enemy troops.
The Big Book of Australian History captures the diversity of the Australian experience—from the cultures of Indigenous people to the contributions made by waves of settlers from countries around the globe. There are many stirring stories and fascinating images revealing well-known and not-so-well-known people, all of whom have contributed to our national story.
Luckily, staff at the National Library of Australia are kept very busy collecting, keeping and caring for the stories of our history makers and these stories are freely available to everyone to see and share. For every famous Australian story there are countless unknown ones tucked in the stacks and databases amid the billions of sheets of paper, the objects, the canvases, the audio recordings, the websites and the digital records, just waiting to be discovered.
In the first blogpost we met Jodie from the Pictures Collection, Catherine from the Ephemera Collection and Sam from the Digitisation and Photography Branch. Now, join us to meet four more more passionate staff members at the Library whose collections tell just a few of these stories.
What history will you make?
Fourth stop: Japanese Collection
Mayumi – “These traditional Japanese board games are called ‘Sugoroku’ and have been popular pastimes in Japan for hundreds of years. Players used counters and a playing board (printed on paper), and the game was similar to the Western game of snakes and ladders. Each has a topic which could be anything from wars, performing arts, manga, travel, shopping, women’s life or flowers, to nuclear physics or the Red Cross and firefighters. In this one from 1944 featured in The Big Book of Australian History, players travel to other countries of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. They are very historically informative, while being vividly visual and a lot of fun! About 100 of these Sugoroku game sheets are in the Japanese collection and over 80 titles are already digitized and can be viewed online. The collection is still growing. We have a ball working on them!”
Fifth Stop: Music Collection
Isobel – “The music collection is one of the most vibrant and colourful in the Library thanks to lots of gorgeous decorative sheet music covers, which you can browse at your leisure with our Forte app for iPad. Many of them can be seen in The Big Book of Australian History, as people have always loved to write and play songs about their stories. Lovingly built up by our former Curator of Music Robyn Holmes, the Library’s music collection comprises thousands of published and unpublished Australian sheet music scores.”
Sixth stop: Education
Ben – “Treasure Explorer is an educational website where students and teachers can learn more about and interact with some of these Australian stories, from the convict uniform known as a ‘magpie suit’ from Port Arthur in Tasmania to the pages of Prime Minister Menzies’ broadcast of the Declaration of War to the people of Australia on 3 December 1939. Students can come to the Library and see many of the collection items from The Big Book of Australian History in the Treasures Gallery, but even if they can’t, anyone, anywhere in Australia can access Treasure Explorer. You can even post photos and stories of your own treasures on the site right along with the ones at the Library, which is the perfect way to be a history maker!”
Seventh stop: Newspapers Collection
Leisa – “Newspapers are one of the most immediate ways people tell stories as history is happening, as journalists race to be the first to break news. This headline from 9 December 1941 reads ‘Japan Strikes Hard at Pacific Bases’, and would have been a very powerful front page for people to see. Newspapers also provide a snapshot of changing social conditions through photographs, advertisements, entertainment features, reviews of movies and books, and cartoons. The Newspapers Collection at the Library has huge collection of newspapers, and over 10 million sheets have been digitised and can be searched on Trove!”
The Big Book of Australian History, produced by NLA Publishing, is available for purchase through our bookstore and online.