The dark side of Trove that may surprise you
10 November 2016
As a collection of Australia’s cultural heritage, Trove collects wonderful stories from the past for the researchers of the future. If an Australian collection agency has put it online we have tried to collect it, from the weird…
to the wonderful…
Collecting it all (or as much as we can) means we have brought in a few items that may surprise.
Rogues and rabble rousers
A ’rogues gallery’ is a collection of photographs taken for identification purposes by law enforcement agencies. Identity photographs, or ‘mug shots’, were one of the most regular types of photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because they were such a useful tool in crime prevention. Trove’s rogues gallery contains pictures from Tasmania to Northern Queensland and even across the ocean. Of course, not everyone photographed was a criminal. The men below were unionists during the Great Shearers Strike, 1891.
Originally taken just for identification, mugshots changed over time and in some locales even became expressive. Attached to the mugshot below is a ‘special photograph’ , a particular type of image taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930 in which prisoners seemed able to adopt whatever pose they chose.
The rakish, handsome pioneer turned to crime by the injustice of society, or local ruffians who couldn’t keep their hands off other people's horses? Most bushrangers died young, but they captured the imagination of the populace at the time and continue to do so today.
If you feel like being bad, but still want to go over to your nanna’s house on the weekend for tea and cakes, then graffiti may be more your style:
Graffiti is actually one of the world’s oldest art forms and adorns some of its most significant archaeological sites, so good on you for carrying on the tradition graffiti artists. Just don’t tell nanna.
Remember the golden age of magic when the impossible seemed possible and our cynicism didn’t need to be tempered by tight black shirts and peroxide-whitened teeth? When magic was something that came from the depths of the occult not a street-wise smirk and jazz hands. Oh well, enjoy the poster and postcards:
From nudists, to smokers to sportsmen, if you want to find a group of fanatical followers and the moral outrage that accompanies them, you will find it in a newspaper… and it will be different.
One of the more harrowing elements of the Trove collection is the way in which tragedy is captured so frequently. Is it human nature to want to know what a crash looks like? To see disaster unfold?
Fortunately, despite the nature of crashes, people survive, this was the case in this 1938 crash at Lake Monger, WA:
So why does Trove collect these strange images and items?
Simple. They’re valuable, perhaps not to you or me but to someone who wants to know more about early 20th century magic, mid-20th century aircraft crashes or just find a picture of that great aunt who the family doesn’t talk about.
These items will continue to be valuable as long people like you and me continue to delve into the dark side of Trove. What surprises have you found in Trove? Let us know in the comments section below this blog or contact us.
Cover image: Postcards advertising the magican Horace Goldin, circa 1900-1939, courtesy of the State Library Victoria, http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/207009802