Disturbing news came out last week that proposed cuts to the budget of the National Library of Australia may threaten the future of Trove. While there are no threats to service as a whole, one effect of the cuts may be tat Trove will stop “aggregating content in Trove from museums and universities unless it is fully funded to do so.” There is also the possibility that digitisation of collections will slow down. These cuts follow years of funding cuts to our cultural institutions by both sides of government.
This is seriously bad news for humanities researchers (among others), who rely on Trove as an easily accessible and very user-friendly ‘collection of collections’. Trove is free and available to anyone, anywhere in the world, making it an important tool that drives research both inside and outside of academia.
Moreover, Trove is recognised worldwide for its innovation. Trove has provided incredible access to Australian history and culture, historians from all backgrounds have been talking about the way that it has transformed their research. Tim Sherratt (a former manager of Trove and Associate Professor of Digital Heritage at the University of Canberra) speaking on RTR FM describe Trove as the essential ‘infrastructure needed for humanities research’,, saying it was as necessary to research in this country as funding telescopes and infrastructure for scientific research. You can read more from Tim here.
In The Conversation Mike Jones and Deb Verhoeven have written a great article detailing exactly what is so great about Trove and why it is essential for research.
Making Australia’s existing investment in information resources freely and efficiently available is not just a self-evident public good in terms of equality of access. The democratisation of information has clear benefits for innovation and the Turnbull government’s “ideas boom”.
Trove is a key piece of information infrastructure for many professionals, and this wealth of material isn’t behind a paywall or subscription service. There’s no requirement that users prove they are “bona fide” researchers (whatever that may mean). Read the full article here.
For art historians and arts researchers Trove provides a useful way to search material held in various galleries, museums and libraries. It is much more efficient than having to repeat the same search on each museum website, and also makes it more likely that we will discover material in collections that we might not otherwise have considered. It is really only over the past five years that most of our national collections have started to make their collections readily available in a digital format, and the possibility that these will not be aggregated by Trove is quite concerning. The recent news that the Public Catalogue Foundation with the support of the BBC plans to provide digital access to every work of art in public collections in the UK from a single website, shows how backward-looking these cuts are. Australia has been leader in providing high-quality, easy-to-use, universal free access to our cultural collections, it would be a shame for us to start sowing down now.
Currently it is still unclear what exactly will happen, but there is a move for individuals and associations concerned by the cuts to show their support for Trove. There is a petition, and also a call for people to share their stories of using Trove and how it has helped their research either on Twitter using the hashtag #fundTrove or on the Fund Trove Facebook page.