- What we collect
- Preserving our collections
- Building our collections
- Selected Library collections
- Collection statistics
- History of the collection
- Processing and describing our collections
This report offers a review of recent significant acquisitions by the Library and of collecting activities. It does not describe the large volume of acquisitions of both Australian and overseas materials that are routinely acquired through deposit, purchase or donation.
Australian books and journals
The Library continues to work with large publishing houses to transition from print to digital legal deposit. Hachette, Scribe and Text made their first digital deposits through the bulk process, providing more than 800 titles.
The move from edeposit to National edeposit (NED) promises increased access to deposit content for all users of NSLA libraries. This was realised in dramatic fashion when as part of NED implementation the Library migrated the State Library of Queensland’s digital legal deposit collection adding 12,250 new items not previously held by the NLA. The collection includes titles from local authorities, self-publishers, schools, galleries and other Queensland based organisations and, includes indigenous content beyond the usual reach of the National Library such as the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council newsletter, Reconciliation in Queensland schools and Wujal Wujal local disaster management plan.
The Library acquired a copy of I am team Australia signed by every Australian athlete who attended the 3rd Invictus Games held in Sydney in October 2018. Many of these Australian athletes are also profiled in Unconquered : our wounded warriors, which tells the story of the veterans military service and how sport helps them overcome mental and physical trauma inflicted from their service.
Signs & wonders, a limited edition artists’ book collaboration between American writer Jacques Menasche and Australian photographer Stephen Dupont, who retraced Mark Twain’s 1867 expedition to the Holy Land 150 years later, following a route that today weaves between Israel and the West Bank.
The Library added to its zine collection with through attendance the MCA Zine Fair and the Other Worlds Zine Fair, both held in Sydney in May. Zines provide an avenue for Indigenous people to express themselves in their words and images, examples of zines collected include Reconciliation: fact or fiction?, Whiteness & blackness in the Koori struggle for self-determination and Moving blackwards : Black power and the Aboriginal embassy.
Ephemera and posters
The Feminist Club, NSW, souvenir programme for a reception in honour of women delegates to the Imperial Press Conference in Australia, September 10th, 1925, is an attractive die-cut item in the shape of a kookaburra, with the details of an all-Australian musical evening in the central pages.
A souvenir broadside for a grand fancy dress roller-skating carnival in Adelaide on Monday, 30 July 1888, with artwork by Charles Penstone (1852-1896), depicting three attendees on roller-skates dressed as Mephistopheles, a Bluestocking and a Chinaman inside a decorative Japanese themed border. Over 2,000 people attended the carnival (600 to 700 of them on skates), which was extensively reported in the newspapers.
Seventeen limited edition posters produced through a project in which North Queensland printmakers were invited to produce a letterpress poster using their own imagery and the type and letterpress printing equipment available at Sheree Kinlyside’s Red Rag Press in Townsville. The posters cover a number of issues including Australia’s history (Sheree Kinlyside and Alan Carpenter), animals and the environment (Maxine Smith, Anneke Silver and Gabriel Smith), war and immigration (Sandra Wright and Laura Castell), and very fast train proposals and regional development (Richard Gillespie).
Northern Australia: route maps and full information from the Shell Company of Australia Ltd Overlanding Department by W. H. A. Constable, a rare early travel poster promoting overland journeys by automobile to the beautiful lagoons of Northern Australia, using the Shell Company’s maps and petroleum products, which by 1931 were beginning to be widely distributed all over the country. Only intrepid travellers took trips like that described in Muriel Dorney, An adventurous honeymoon : the first motor honeymoon around Australia (1928).
An owner bound album of mid-nineteenth century sheet music represents the tastes and varied colonial career of one George Berner, an amateur singer of sentimental ballads. The collection comprises 46 pieces, 20 of which were published in Sydney, between 1851 and 1864. Berner was manager of the Newcastle Coal and Copper Company from 1859 until around 1864 when he returned to Sydney to set up as an independent shipping and commission agent, not very successfully, as he went through the insolvency courts in 1868, 1872 and 1876. By 1876, he had entered the public service as a clerk in the public works department. He was appointed Chief Clerk on the Railway Branch, Department of Public Works in May 1880 but by 1886 he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 10 years hard labour, commuted to 3 years.
The Yarra Yarra schottische by George Chapman,G. Chapman's Music Warehouse, (1857) Melbourne, adds to the Library’s extensive collection of partnered dance music. Chapman, a cornet player and band-master arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and set up his music warehouse which he ran until his death in 1895.
Websites and online database publications
The annual whole .au Australian web domain harvest was completed during March and April capturing over 800 million web documents or around 77 terabytes of online published data.
Highlights from the PANDORA selective web archive include The Indigenous Australian Collective website, Australian Muslim Artists, the Same Sex Wedding Guide website and a collection of website commentary and encomiums on the passing of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
The Federal Election
The 2019 Federal Election campaign was matched by the National Library’s highly successful campaign to acquire a wide variety of ephemera relating to the election. This material — printed brochures, posters and other paraphernalia — came in response to direct requests made to the 1,514 standing candidates, registered political parties and 120+ special interest groups as well as the Australian public. This included everything from mainstream how-to-vote cards, stickers and roadside corflute signs through to temporary tattoos and controversial ‘paste-ups’ from street artists. The extraordinary number of retirements and resignations from office by of Members of Parliament since the 2016 Federal Election offered opportunities to acquire material from past politicians, their staffers and supporters. The Library has attempted to comprehensively collect Federal Election ephemera since the 1980s and has material in a variety of formats and media covering the electoral process back to Federation.
More than 1,000 websites were collected documenting the 2019 Federal Election campaign. This includes party and candidate websites; media, commentary and video websites; lobby and interest group websites; and electoral study and research websites. Collecting of campaign material for the 2019 federal election included a greater focus on Twitter accounts that provided invaluable perspectives on the campaign. Archiving select Twitter accounts proved an excellent way to document the daily events of the campaign. Twitter accounts collected included: betting agencies Ladbrokes and Sportsbet documenting the daily odds; the account for ‘Captain GetUp’ which had a high profile during the campaign; political cartoonists David Rowe and David Pope who tweeted their daily cartoons through their accounts. This election also saw the Chinese social media platform WeChat play a role and we captured the accounts for both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.
The release of several publications detailing the election process, compulsory voting, and the surprising Liberal victory coincided with the election. Titles include; From secret ballot to democracy sausage: how Australia got compulsory voting, The law of politics: elections, parties and money in Australia, The prosperity gospel : how Scott Morrison won and Bill Shorten lost and 2019 elections : you don’t need to read this.
During the last six months, efforts continued to source works of Australian authors republished in Asia. These include the Australian Children’s Book Council Honour Book by Jackie French, Nanberry : black brother white, as well as Geraldine Brooks’ non-fiction international bestseller, Nine parts of desire : the hidden world of Islamic women, republished in Korean. A series of titles published by Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP) that have been translated and republished in China by Beijing Time Chinese Publishing House were also acquired. The five titles, Fight for liberty and freedom, Convincing ground, Mutton fish, My Ngarrindjeri calling and Paint me black outline Australian indigenous history, life and culture.
The Jakarta Office has successfully established relationships with new local area publishers and suppliers from around Indonesia including Aceh, North and West Sumatra and West Nusa Tengara provinces, including agreements with Pacific Post, Harian Jubi and Bisnis Papua. The material from these suppliers, though significant in content, is rarely available outside the region in which they are published, and would not be accessible to the Library without these arrangements.
Asian collections received a calligraphic artwork Kokorozashi : 志 = Noble aspirations, generously donated by award-winning Japanese calligrapher Tairiku Teshima. Born in Shibuya, Tokyo in 1947, Mr Teshima is an exponent of the school of symbolic calligraphy called shõsho that uses limited characters and brushstrokes to express the close relationship between words, meaning and their form. Mr Teshima had been in Canberra to open an exhibition of his work at the National Arboretum, and after visiting the Library was very keen to support the collection, noting this work is one of only a few accessible outside Japan.
The papers of A.B. Paterson, purchased from Paterson’s great-grandson, Alistair Campbell. Held by members of the Paterson family for four generations, this collection represents the last known tranche of Paterson material not already in a public institution. Consisting of diaries, notebooks, drafts of poems and other writings, correspondence, scrapbooks, ephemera, photographs and realia, the papers provide insight into Paterson’s daily activities, his intellectual endeavours and the contexts informing his writing. The collection documents Paterson as a lawyer, poet, horseman, solider, writer, station owner, war correspondent, journalist, husband and father. There is significant draft material, including an early version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and several chapters of Paterson’s unpublished memoir. A feature of the correspondence are letters from Paterson to his wife, Alice, and his children, Hugh and Grace. The papers complement other notable manuscript collections held by the Library, such as the letters of Paterson’s mother, Rose Paterson, and the ‘Waltzing Matilda’ music manuscript notated by Christina Macpherson.
Three journals of John Olsen, AO OBE, donated by him under the Cultural Gifts Program as an addition to his existing archive. The bound volumes contain detailed manuscript narratives richly illustrated with gouache, ink and watercolour sketches, as well as featuring inserted photographs, selected letters and ephemera. The journals date from 1957, 1983-84 and 2011-14, and include vivid descriptions of Olsen’s travels across Australia and Europe, together with personal reflections on his experiences and relationships, including his response to the deaths of his ex-wife Valerie Strong, art critic Robert Hughes and artist Jeffrey Smart.
Records of the Walter Burley Griffin Society, comprising a small collection of 13 items donated by the Society. Comprising booklets, programs, legal documents, essays and plans collected by the Society in relation to developments primarily in the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag. This acquisition is the first Manuscripts/TROVE partnership for acquisition and digitisation of an archival collection. The Society agreed to donate the material and provide funds for digitisation to facilitate access to and preservation of their most commonly used collection items, with further additions expected.
The Gelling family donated the papers of Peter Gelling, a blues musician, teacher, composer and author of over 100 musical publications. His archive comprises correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, promotional material, photographs, awards, reviews and original annotated music.
The Library has received many significant additions to its collections, including:
- Papers of poet John Kinsella, purchased from him as an addition to his existing archive, including journals and diaries; draft material for published and unpublished writings; correspondence including with Tracey Ryan, Wendy Kinsella, Randolph Stow, Peter Porter, Alex Miller, Alison Croggin, Sarah Day, Galway Kinnell and Les Murray; interviews with and by Kinsella; material relating to professional teaching, poetry readings and lectures; photographs; and printed material. The collection offers rich evidence of Kinsella’s creative process, his sources of inspiration, his primary artistic relationship with his partner, Tracey Ryan, his friendships and network of other literary figures, and the importance the Australian landscape holds to his sense of identity.
- Papers of author Helen Garner, donated by her under the Cultural Gifts Program as an addition to her existing archive. This tranche comprises material, 2005-2014, relating to Garner’s multi-award winning non-fiction book This house of grief (2014) about the trials of Robert Farquharson. There are trial transcripts, heavily annotated by Garner; transcripts of interviews; correspondence; literary drafts and journals kept by Garner. This material richly demonstrates Garner’s connections with the people involved, her friends and acquaintances, and her readers.
- Further papers of activist and academic Dennis Altman, c. 1959-2013, donated by him under the Cultural Gifts Program. The archive documents aspects of Altman’s professional career: correspondence as a gay activist and academic, business dealings with publishers and organisations, strategies and responses to AIDS, published books, reviews, essays and articles; as well as personal material, notebooks, printed ephemera. A particular highlight is the substantial range of issues and correspondents represented, including editors, institutions and publishers, and the manner in which it demonstrates the impact and reach of Altman’s writings. There is also substantial research material relating to AIDS, response to the AIDS epidemic, and the impact on Australian society.
Significant new acquisitions and additions to existing collections were also received from writer Mudrooroo Nyoongah; ethnomusicologist Professor Margaret Kartomi, AM; writer Anthony Hill; conservation architect Peter Freeman, OAM; art historian Virginia Spate. AC; musicologist Emeritus Professor Allan Marett; writer Alan Reid; ‘Dunera boy’ and academic Bern Brent; diplomat Sir Victor Garland; ecologist Emeritus Professor Raymond Specht; the Australian Lebanese Society; the Australian Federation of Graduate Women; the Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine; and the Australian Round Dance Association.
A number of key documents and smaller collections were acquired, including:
- A letter from social reformer Florence Nightingale to Robert Selby Esq. concerning Selby’s manuscript ‘Aborigines of New South Wales’, 1864. The letter demonstrates the reach of Nightingale’s influence, providing context to her opinions about Indigenous Australians. In the letter she refers to a lecture she gave, subsequently published as Note on the Aboriginal races of Australia, which the Library holds within the Ferguson and Nan Kivell collections.
- The manuscript journal of Vice-Admiral Henry Seymour, CB, Captain of HMS Carysfort, 1846-47. This journal provides a detailed account of the ship’s voyage to Australia and New Zealand, conducting Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy to his new appointment as Governor of the New South Wales colony.
- A collection of letters to the colonial administrator Sir William MacGregor, concerning colonial interests in the Pacific, including a letter of 9 September 1886, from Sir Basil Thomson to McGregor advocating the annexation of Tonga. The letter illustrates the approach of the British Empire in administering its interests during this period, denouncing the Premier of Tonga, noting attitudes toward other countries with interests in the South Pacific and describing in detail the conditions in Tonga at the time.
- Daniel Rosenthal donated a small collection of correspondence between his father, publisher and literary critic Tom Rosenthal, and Patrick White. The letters include critiques of White's work and that of other expatriate Australians in the London art scene during the 1960s and 1970s.
Recent acquisitions included unique and previously unrecorded early cartography, in addition to a number of key maps in the history of Australian settlement and land-use. The Library also continues to work with government map producers to transition from print to digital legal deposit. In the first six months of 2019, 2846 digital map files were collected, primarily through the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment.
A very rare copy of the unpublished star atlas, known as Uranographia Britannica, by English astronomer John Bevis (1695-1771). This celestial atlas was completed c.1748 and plates prepared, but never published. The plates closely mirror those of Johann Bayer's Uranometria (1603) and Flamsteed’s Atlas coelestis (1729) both held by the Library, but with a greatly increased star count. Bevis’ atlas is also significant for being the last atlas to depict the stars with respect to their zodiacal positions relative to the ecliptic plane. The volume was acquired from Martayan Lan Antique Maps, New York. No other examples of the Bevis atlas are listed in Trove.
A previously unrecorded Russian language edition of Tupaia’s map of the South Pacific Ocean and its islands, was acquired from Hordern House, Sydney. Originally published (in English) in J.R. Forster’s account of Cook’s voyages in 1778, it is not clear if the Russian version was issued in a translation of the Forster account, or separately. Also acquired from Hordern House, three printed circulars from the Admiralty Office, London, signed by second secretary to the Admiralty William Marsden in 1800. These signed instructions issued at the time of Flinders’ explorations in Australian waters, provided masters of British naval vessels clear direction to record and transmit vital hydrographic information to the Admiralty.
Of great significance to the story of Western Australian settlement, the Chart of Swan & Canning Rivers on the Western Coast of Australia, was the first printed map of the region that would become the Swan River Colony. Printed in January 1829, it was based on the survey of Captain James Stirling's HMS Success, and shows the ship’s track and exploration for the proposed settlement. The map also includes Stirling's persuasive commentary designed to encourage settlement. It was acquired from Daniel Crouch Rare Books, London, and was formerly in the hands of a Perth-based family.
Purchased from a Sydney map dealer, a large map of New South Wales showing pastoral holdings shows the boundaries of over 1,500 named pastoral holdings and lists each landholder. This 1891 edition of the map (not believed to be held elsewhere in Australia), reflects the Crown Lands Act of 1884 and later supplements, which superseded the Robertson Acts of the 1860s. The new Act divided NSW into three district divisions - Central Division, Eastern Division and Western Division, and added provisions for assessing, acquiring and administering lands.
A collection of 21 manuscript fire insurance plans created in the offices of the Fire Underwriters Association, 1919-35, were acquired from Josef Lebovic Gallery in Sydney. The original ink drawings on architectural linen cover four central Sydney suburbs (City of Sydney, Surry Hills, Ultimo, Haymarket). The Library holds a published volume of Sydney fire plans for this period; the manuscript acquisition includes a number of sheets not included in the published work. At a large scale (1:480), these plans allow a detailed understanding of internal building layouts and construction materials, as well as the owners and occupiers of the time.
The Library has a significant collection of educational wall maps, and a miscellaneous group of nine were acquired from Melbourne map dealer Brighton Antiques. Produced between 1912 and 1968, each are mounted on rollers as originally used in class-room settings. The maps were produced by well-known Australian map publishers, including H.E.C. Robinson, George R. Broadbent, and Charles H. Scally & Co.
Maps acquired a large survey map of country near Granite Peak Station, Western Australia, 1963. The map was donated by descendants of P B Cresswell, a working partner of the Station along the Canning Stock Route. The hand-drawn map mounted on linen is over two metres in length, and shows the location of wells, springs, bores and camps near the Station. The map was donated with the surveyor’s theodolite.
An 1857 nautical chart of the South Pacific published by English chartmakers Imray & Co., which includes the pencilled tracks of the clipper ship Boston Light from San Francisco to Sydney May 1855, and on to Hong Kong August 1855, and the Moses Wheeler from Sydney to Callao November 1857.
A remarkable early 1800s manuscript map of Australia showing the Australian mainland and Van Diemen’s Land, includes both Dutch and British nomenclature. The western half of the mainland is marked as New Holland, and the eastern half as New South Wales. Unusually, Australian coastal features retain extensive Dutch and British placenames right round the coast.
The Library acquired an opalotype photograph of Aboriginal Australian man Robert 'Bob' Andy on his wedding day in northern NSW, c. 1890. The portrait of a man in his wedding suit offers a valuable and comparatively rare alternative to the dominant portraiture of an Aboriginal Australian person at this time.
Richard Watson donated a collection of 78 black and white photographs taken by his father Bruce Mauger Watson of the First Australian Scout Jamboree, Victoria (1934-35) and Scouts Centenary Corroboree, South Australia (1936-37). They complement the Library’s existing material on scouting, showing group activities and other details of Scout organised events.
Photographs from the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse comprising nine digital images of the Apology at Parliament House, Canberra, were purchased from photographer Louise Whelan. Individuals depicted include Julia Gillard, Scott Morrison, Robert House, and Leonie Sheedy.
Final days of the Hazelwood Power Station, a photographic series of the Hazelwood Power Station, Victoria, was purchased from photographer Andrew Chapman. Powered by an adjacent brown coal mine, the power station provided 5% of Australia’s total electricity before being decommissioned in 2017. The photographs capture the key features and machinery of the site, as well as the people who brought Hazelwood to life.
Eight digital images of the 2018 Liberal leadership spill were purchased from photographer Sean Davey, and capture the key figures of the most recent Federal leadership spill. The collection includes images of key political figures previously unrecorded within the Library’s collections.
Works from the Thomas Balcombe family collection c.1851-57, with highlights including the artist’s only known self-portrait, a sketchbook and artwork ‘Gundaroo Natives’, were purchased at auction. The acquisition is representative of Balcombe’s output, capturing Indigenous life and culture, as well as colonial practices and gold mining.
The original pen, ink and gouache drawing Mr Chicken visits the Musee du Louvre by Leigh Hobbs for his children’s book Mr Chicken goes to Paris (2009), was donated to the Library by the artist for the Library's children’s literature exhibition, 'Storytime'.
The plaster cast working model for the Library’s bronze entrance lintel was donated by the Hurlstone Agricultural High School. The impressive maquette was made by Tom Bass as part of his commission for the lintel.
Oral history and folklore
An oral history interview conducted with Alison Harcourt by Nikki Henningham drew attention to a pioneering Australian mathematician, statistician and academic and highlighted the largely unrecognized role women in these fields have played historically. Alison Harcourt received an AO for her service to mathematics and computer science in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Other eminent Australians interviewed included Janet Calvert-Jones, AM interviewed by Rob Linn. Janet Calvert-Jones has played a leading role as a philanthropist and in business and has made a remarkable contribution to Australian life in a number of spheres. An interview conducted with Dorothy Hoddinott by Robyn Holmes provided a rich insight into the life of a 2014 Human Rights Medal winner, a champion of refugee and asylum seeker rights, as well as someone who has made a major contribution to Australian education at both State and National levels. An interview with Guy Warren conducted by Richard Morecroft provided an in-depth exploration of the life of an Archibald Prize winning painter.
Interviews conducted for the Australia-China Council oral history project include one with Jade Little, who has worked as mining engineer and is Executive Director of the Australia-China Youth Dialogue and was interviewed by Michelle Potter for this project. Geoff Raby, who served as the Australian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from February 2007 until August 2011, was interviewed by Garry Sturgess. Li Cunxin, AO, currently the artistic director for Queensland Ballet and renowned for his 2003 autobiography, Mao’s last dancer, was interviewed by Michelle Potter. This interview provided an in-depth account of his life since the publication of his autobiography, his burgeoning career as a stockbroker and his contribution to Australian cultural life.
A number of oral history interviews were obtained as part of the History of Australian geoscience collaboration with Geoscience Australia. For example, Dr Christopher Pigram, AM former CEO of Geoscience Australia, was interviewed by Patrick Lyons, providing insight into the role that Australia’s pre-eminent public sector geoscience organisation plays in contemporary society. An interview with Erica Smyth, also conducted by Patrick Lyons for this project, drew out the importance of mines and mineral resources to Australia and the way geoscience connected with this field.
Interviews and recordings of songs and Yawuru language were accessioned as part of the Yawuru deep history project. These included an interview with Virginia Albert by Professor Ann McGrath. Virginia Albert spoke of the personal significance of speaking Yawuru. In an interview with Naomi Appleby, Dianne Appleby reflected on the way the Yawuru community was engaged in activities that fostered a deep connection to Yawuru culture and history. The Yawuru community were also recorded singing a number of songs in language, including I am Australian.
The variety of Australian folklore continues to be showcased with a wide array of material collected by Salvatore Rossano, including interviews with Pasqualina Romeo in Italian, songs and music from Mohamed Saliou Camara from Djembe, West Africa and Alejandro and Giaconda Vatcky, who performed music from Chile and also gave a rich interview. Rob and Olya Willis recorded the Ukrainian Community Choir in Hobart, Tasmania.