With over 68,000 users daily, accessing more than 6.5 billion digitised records, Trove was ready for a clean-up, and has set its sights on future researchers and greater accessibility free for all.
Late Friday (26 June), the Minister for Communication and the Arts, Hon Paul Fletcher issued his second funding announcement for the week, one that perhaps got lost in the commentary around the Federal Government’s earlier news of a $250 arts and entertainment relief package.
On behalf of the Morrison government, Fletcher announced an $8 million boost to the National Library of Australia (NLA) over the next two years to support the ongoing development of Australia’s digital heritage portal, Trove.
For those not familiar with Trove, it was established in 2009 and provides free access to approximately 6.5 billion records from Australia’s recent and distant past.
We are talking everything from old newspapers, maps, magazines, manuscripts, archived websites, court reports, oral histories and photographs that tell the story of Australia through primary sources and other documents.
‘When Trove was first launched in 2009, it comprised mostly print content. Over the last decade it has evolved and today approximately 90 per cent of Trove’s use is for digital content,’ said Minister Fletcher.
This is content not only from the National Library of Australia (NLA), but also the collections of State and Territory libraries, and hundreds of other libraries. And, in more recent years, its data contributors have expanded to include galleries, museums, archives, and historical societies, as well as media organisations.
Minister Fletcher described Trove as a ‘digital success story’.
The $8 million funding announcement was timed with the launch of a new revitalised Trove, one that has been four years in the planning and allows enhanced search and sharing functions as well as mobile optimisation.
What is Trove, and who can use it?
With over 68,000 daily users, simply, Trove is Australia’s world-leading culture and research portal. It’s completely free and easy to use, and you can access it anywhere that you have an internet connection.
But, say goodbye to the old green and grey font – a relic of some ancient word of code and search engines. Trove has been reimagine, and is mobile friendly and more attractive to younger audiences.
NLA Collaboration Group Assistant Director-General Alison Dellit said that while Trove was innovative for its time, it had not been significantly updated since its launch.
‘Information technology has changed so much in that time but it was not feasible for us to do an update, we really needed to rebuild the site,’ Dellit told RiotACT blog.
She continued: ‘Our research found many people weren’t sure if Trove was for them. They wondered if it was for professional researchers, or for government only, or if they’d have to pay to use it.’
She added that users were often overwhelmed with the amount of information, while regular uses 'weren’t sure if they were getting all they could from Trove.'
So for this next stage of Trove, NLA consulted with over 3,000 Australians to get it right. It has not only been about redesign and improved functionality – classic tech improvements – but measures has also been taken to improve the cultural safety of Trove for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and CaLD (Culturally & Linguistically Diverse) communities, and to also meet accessibility obligations.
This four-year improvement started in 2016, with $16.4 million from the Australian Government’s Public Service Modernisation scheme.
Last week’s additional $8 million – bringing the total investment in Trove to $24.4 million – ‘will provide ongoing support for the operation of Trove, enabling the National Library to continue to invest in the development of this outstanding service,’ said Fletcher.
‘The Australian government has really shown its faith in Trove by investing in it over the last four years and having a free service like this means that it's accessible to everybody and therefore it has public power as part of our Australian democracy,’ Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres added to the Canberra Times.
In a statement by NLA, Ayres, added: ‘The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the way we access information into sharp focus. Trove has proven to be invaluable to its visitors now more than ever, providing trusted information and welcome diversion during a moment in history when it’s never been more important to have insights and discovery at your fingertips.’
She continued: ‘Trove brings together voices and stories from every corner of the country and provides free access to those resources – to everyone, wherever they are. With a new design and improved search options the updated Trove provides easier access to knowledge for everyone,’ said,
Trove’s reach extends to Australians in remote, regional and rural areas and in 2018-19 it recorded 28.30 million visitor sessions.