Revered cultural institution the National Library of Australia has scored a modest but essential $10 million seed funding in the Federal Budget to start digitising its $1.3 billion collection in earnest following the runaway success of its Trove website and database.
The fresh money, spread over four years follows a period of staffing cuts fuelled by the government’s loathed efficiency dividend that produced much worse than anticipated consequences at cultural and collecting institutions that were already leanly run.
A crucial element of Trove is that it makes otherwise difficult to access historic documents easily available online, ranging from newspaper archives to the personal papers of key national and historic figures.
The flagship project for the National Library’s Digitisation Fund is the conversion “of the papers of eminent Australians including Sir John Monash and Sir Robert Menzies,” Communications and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement.
The government is also hoping that businesses and wealthy Australians will open their wallets to fund the project, with the fund also seeking philanthropic contributions to continue to make digital history.
Less clear is whether donations ‘in kind’ like software licences or the supply of hardware or infrastructure could be in the mix.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) cautiously welcomed the new Digitisation Fund but brought the government to book again over sustained cuts.
“National collecting institutions continued to see declining government investment, mainly as a result of the punitive efficiency dividend,” ALIA said in a budget analysis.
“Seven institutions in the Communications and the Arts Portfolio, including the National Library of Australia, were slated to lose almost $16.8 million in government funding between them, year-on-year.”