Trove - a brief history

Trove - a brief history
Trove is now 5 years old. Here’s how we came to be.
5 November 2014

Trove didn’t come out of a box, ready for the National Library to install. Trove has grown out of other services and evolved through the influence of people, technological developments and business needs. This month we’re celebrating Trove’s fifth birthday by taking over the month. It’s Trovember and we thought we’d start by reflecting on where we came from. 

So where do we start? The first book? The first catalogue record for that book? The first person who decided to help others find that book? These are Trove’s fundamentals – human beings create information and have the desire to share it. Trove’s story is the story of how technology has changed the ways we can share, organise and use that information.

Trove was built on the experience and knowledge gained through the Library’s many years of sharing and collaborating with other organisations. I have to pick a starting point however, so I’ll start with the Australian Bibliographic Network.

ABN logo

The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN), launched in 1981, was Australia’s first shared national cataloguing system. Instead of every library investing the resources to catalogue every item in their collection, each item would be catalogued once and other libraries would copy this cataloguing, saving time and money. This was a service inspired by the success of OCLC and initially included records from university, state, special and public libraries. To put this in some context, when ABN was born online library systems were still in their infancy and the web as we know it today had yet to be born.

Pandora logoRAAM logo

Next came the web archive Pandora in 1996 and the Register of Australian Manuscripts (RAAM) in 1997. Pandora, Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia, was the Library’s first attempt at capturing Australia’s online documentary heritage. RAAM was a database which contained records for manuscripts (eg. letters and diaries) from non-government archives.

Picture Australia logo

Picture Australia was released in 2000. Another revolutionary service from the Library, Picture Australia started with less than half a million image records from seven institutions. By the time it was decommissioned in 2012 it had grown to more than two million images with records from more than 70 institutions. The technology which underpinned Picture Australia became increasingly costly to maintain and there were new possibilities on the horizon.

Australia Dancing, launched in 2003, was a joint venture with Ausdance, Australia’s dance peak body. This service updated the electronic directory to the Australian Dance Collection. It was a one stop shop if you were interested in dance in Australia.

Music Australia logo

Music Australia and Australian Research Online were launched in 2005. Music Australia was a free discovery service for, as its name implies, music resources. These resources came from over 50 cultural organisations around Australia.

Australian Research Online logo

Australian Research Online, which began life as Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW), was built to support Australian research by improving the discovery of theses, working papers and journal articles. This was a service which was built in collaboration with Australian universities; the ARROW consortium was comprised of Monash University, the Library, the University of New South Wales and Swinburne University of Technology.

Late 2006 saw the beginnings of the People Australia project. The primary aim of this project was to develop a resource discovery service for significant Australian people and organisations, based on biographical records held in National Library of Australia’s electronic resources, suplementing this with records from a range of partner repositories. People Australia was never released to the public as its development was rolled into the development of Trove. In 2009 People Australia became accessible to the public in the People and Organisations zone in Trove.

Libraries Australia logo

The shared cataloguing service that started out as ABN was rebranded numerous times as new services were added, acquiring its current name Libraries Australia in 2006. Libraries Australia gave Australians access to records of multiple libraries in one interface. Unlike the ABN, Libraries Australia was able to deliver digitised content when it was available. It also enabled borrowing, ordering copies and purchase from online bookshops. Libraries Australia is a service for libraries and librarians: when your local librarian is tracking down a book for you, likely they’ll use data from Libraries Australia.

As you can see, the beginnings of Trove were there: collaboration, changing technologies, the need to use resources wisely all underpinned by the mission to share information. But there is a final piece to the puzzle.

Australian newspapers logo

The Australian Newspapers Beta service was released onto an unsuspecting world in July 2008. The service started with 11 newspapers, including The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, The Argus and The South Australian Advertiser. There are now over 700 newspapers with no plans to stop. The Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program has a rolling program of digitisation which they update each financial year.

So many different formats of information. Eight places to search for it. So much more work for the information hungry to do in organising that information. And so many different technologies and platforms for the Library to manage and run. There was a better way to do this.

Trove logo

Initially known as the Single Business Discovery Service (which just rolls off the tongue), briefly known within the Library as Girt (still a favourite with some of the team) the name Trove was the inspired suggestion of a member of the Library’s Public Programs section. Trove, treasure trove, the French verb trouver (to discover), has now spawned new verbs and nouns of its own. You no longer search, you trove. Trove fans are Troveites. 

If you want to know more about the policy and technical challenges there is a more detailed article about Trove’s development on the Library’s website: Digging deep in Trove: Success, challenge and uncertainty.

The Trove of 2014 is quite a different service to the one which started in 2009. Improvements have been made in the interface, the services, and the data. And Trove will continue to grow and develop.

So we start Trove’s birthday month with where we came from. Come back at the end of the month and we’ll tell you where we hope to go. In between I’ll introduce you to the teams who work to bring you the Trove you know and love.

It's Trovember and we're celebrating.

Picture of children at a party

McQuillan, Ern & McQuillan, Mike (2009). Garry McQuillan blows out candles on the cake at his 5th birthday party, 1956. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36318697

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Comment: 
I think Trove is the best thing the National Library has ever done. I date from the ABN era, which everyone then thought was the best and most important initiative ever, but Trove wins hands down. Thank you, National Library and its staff. Neil Radford (formerly University Librarian, University of Sydney, now retired and a Trove user)
Comment: 
Thank you so much for this feedback Neil. We really appreciate it!
Comment: 
Congratulations to the Trove team and happy birthday. What a great asset Trove is to the nation. Linda Luther ( former University Librarian, University of Tasmania and ABN/Libraries Australia committee member)
Comment: 
Catriona, Please pass on to your team the congratulations of ALL researchers for the unique and unrivalled tool that is Trove. When Trove was first released back in 2009, I was one of the early users and quickly became amazed at its possibilities and your team has certainly delivered over the years. It was like the treasure 'trove' of King Solomon's Mines had been opened freely for all people to delve into and discover/re-discover their rich past. More importantly, as a person residing in the regional areas you have made researching so much easier and accessible to us. It is a shame so many of the other archives are still locked away in in the cities making them almost impossible for the country cousins to have easy access. Hopefully this will change in the future via the internet and facilities such as Trove. Rex Toomey (FSAG) President Port Macquarie & Districts Family History Society, Inc
Comment: 
I certainly will Rex. Thank you so much for your feedback.