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Trove's Treasures: Print to Digital

Trove's Treasures: Print to Digital
Week One of Trove's 50 Objects Project
5 June 2018

In 2018, the National Library of Australia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic building.

Trove, the Library's digital discovery service, is joining the celebrations with '50 Objects': a tour of 50 of the most interesting and important records in Trove. Every week, for the next ten weeks, we'll be featuring fascinating Trove treasures on our blog, in an ode to digitally accessible Australian content.

Read the other Trove's Treasures blog posts:
Week Two: Arts
Week Three: Sports
Week Four: Adventure
Week Five: Family History
Week Six: Politics

50th anniversary library logo

This week, our focus is on the journey from 'Print to Digital'. From a playbill printed by a convict on Australia's first printing press to the first edeposit of a digital book in Australia, digitisation enables us to preserve and share our history and cultural heritage.

1. The Sydney Theatre Playbill of 1796

Theatre Playbill, 1796 (Sydney : George Hughes, Govt. Printer for Theatre). http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1419486

In 2007, the Canadian Government presented Australia with a treasure discovered in Library and Archives Canada: a scrap of paper, 20 by 12cm, printed with the playbill for a theatre performance.

This playbill is the earliest surviving printed document in Australia, printed in 1796 by convict George Hughes on a wooden screw press that came out with the First Fleet. This playbill gives insight into life in the Sydney penal colony, and inspired the book The playbill and its people: Australia's earliest printed document.

The playbill is held in the Library's collection and has previously been on display in the Treasures gallery and in exhibitions. Digitisation in Trove means Australia's earliest surviving printed document is now available to access anywhere in the world.

2. The Ghost Who Walks

The Phantom from The Australian Woman's Mirror, Vol.12 No.41 (1 September 1936) pg.48. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-501667921

'The Man Who Cannot Die' - thanks to digitisation.

The Australian Woman's Mirror was digitised in partnership with the State Library of New South Wales. An offshoot of The Bulletin, the journal featured a wide variety of content: articles, short stories, poems, household tips, and even comics.

On September 1, 1936 an 'exciting picture-serial' commenced in the Mirror. This was the Australian debut of The Phantom, featuring the masked hero who fought against 'piracy, greed, and cruelty, in all their forms'.

The Phantom has been continuously published in Australia since 1948, making it Australia's longest running comic book. The Phantom's adventures were often localised to appeal to Australians, with this first story taking place in 'Sydney Harbor', far from the Phantom's jungle home of Bangalla.

Phans of the Ghost Who Walks can discover the character's first Australian appearance in Trove, along with decades of other stories.

3. Fully Bound

Page 173 in Fully bound: over to Hal Missingham: a tribute with love and affection, 1971 (Sydney: Art Gallery of NSW, 1971). http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-233237067/view

In 1971, Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Hal Missingham retired after more than 25 years of service. He was honoured with the retirement gift 'Fully Bound': a bound book of original paintings, drawings, photographs and poems from 202 Australian artists, including Russell Drysdale, Grace Cossington Smith, Nora Heysen, and Brett Whiteley.

Here we see Grace Cossington Smith's contribution to this collection, 'Pony in the bush'. This unique book is held by the Library, with selections digitised in Trove.

You can learn more about this piece of Australian art history in this presentation, recorded at the Library in November 2017.

4. The Ada Reeve Vaudeville Collection

Walker, Samuel A. Ada Reeve 1890. https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/24163623

The Library's performing arts, programs and ephemera (PROMPT) collection contains programs and related items about Australian artists. Many items from this collection can be discovered in Trove, such as this collection of resources about vaudeville performer Ada Reeve.

Ada Reeve began performing in pantomime as a child, gained fame in variety and vaudeville, and in her 70s embarked on a successful film career. The PROMPT collection is a valuable resource on Australian artists such as Ada Reeve, and many of these records are findable or digitised in Trove.

5. Napoleon's Last Island

Cover page. Keneally, Thomas (1935-). Napolean's Last Island (NSW: Penguin Random House Australia, 2016). http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-348878927

In 2016, the novel Napoleon's Last Island became the first edeposit of a digital book received by the National Library of Australia.

This work by Thomas Keneally, Booker Prize winner and author of Schindler's Ark, explores an Australian link to Napoleon: the deposed Emperor's relationship in exile with the family of future colonial treasurer William Balcombe.

The National Library of Australia collects Australian ebooks and serials through a self deposit system for publishers, ensuring that 'born digital' books are preserved for future generations.  

What are your favourite objects in Trove?

Some of the 50 Objects will be decided by you, our Trove patrons. In August, we will have a People's Choice week comprised of your favourite objects in Trove. These can be any objects in Trove - newspaper articles, maps, journals, photographs, artworks, oral history interviews and more - they just have to be available online, and loved by you!  Send your suggestions to trove@nla.gov.au.

Learn more about the activities planned for the Library's 50th Anniversary celebrations