Dear Senator Fifield
I recently looked you up on twitter, and discovered that you had attended the “Celestial Empire” exhibition at the National Library of Australia, and before that participated in #museumselfie day on the steps of the NLA. It’s clear that you know and appreciate the work that the NLA is doing in creating connections, and creating new content. You must be very pleased that the first electronic legal deposit has been made by none other than Tom Keneally and that “At the same time …, the NLA’s web crawler headed out to capture the public Australian web domain.” It is very disappointing, therefore, that the same webcrawler may now no longer support Australia’s universities and museums in making their content available, due to the proposed restrictions to Trove.
I do appreciate that doing things digitally creates both opportunity and dilemma. On the one hand, digital connections open up resources to new avenues of research and exploration, and to new audiences. In 2014, Australia’s cultural institutions were chastised for failing to take full advantage of the growing digital revolution, a significant challenge with the introduction of the NBN and other ditigal infrastructure. The National Library’s collection portal, Trove, was identified as an exemplar of the sort of work that could advantage of that revolution. As your own department identifies, there were over 527 million webpage views to the cultural institutions in the 2013 – 2014 year, a number that can only grow if we continue to fund and innovate.
Trove is not just the work of the National Library. It brings together the expertise of small and large institutions who work to digitise content and describe collection materials,as Deb Verhoeven and Mike Jones have identified . Through memoranda of understanding, collections enter into partnership with the Library to make their content available on Trove. I would urge to you recognise the commitment that is being made by these institutions in supporting the work of the NLA and their contribution to Australia’s innovation and cultural commons.
As the #fundTrove campaign on Twitter is demonstrating, making Australia’s content digitally accessible nationally and internationally has made some significant contributions to national and international research in the sciences and the humanities. Rather than contributing to the extinction of our cultural institutions, shouldn’t we be seeking ways to create, curate and share content? Rather than making sacrifices in the name of efficiency, rather than the reality, let’s aim for extraordinary.