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Australia’s cultural collections are a national treasure: reflecting the diversity, strength, and growth of our nation.
They provide context to our history and enable us to envision new futures. They belong to all Australians. Through Trove, the National Library of Australia and its partners have been able to reveal new stories, histories, futures, and culture to millions of Australians each year. In coming years, new technologies will enable many, many more.
However, the Trove service is built on ageing technology and old user patterns. Building upon the globally significant success of the Trove service, an expanded national cultural infrastructure would digitally secure our national collections and open them to the world.
Our vision encompasses the following outcomes:
There is a single and secure access point to Australia’s cultural and intellectual heritage
Trove has established itself as an online portal into documentary heritage. Through this strategy, cultural heritage from Australia’s rich diversity of collecting institutions would be engaged with seamlessly and harmoniously, enabling each Australian to curate their own story.
Australians have our culture at their fingertips – now and decades into the future
Centralised, secure, and sophisticated management of Australian collections – from heritage newspapers through websites to modern and ancient art – enables Australians to be informed, to create and to belong.
Services are delivered digitally to reach the national population and complement our iconic cultural buildings
Australians can consume, search, explore and engage with collections online: creating new knowledge, sharing their stories, and playing games. Whether the experience of a revelatory exhibition, the purchase of an image of a loved one or simply reading a local history, all these services will be as available in living rooms as in a gallery, library, archive, or museum.
The community collaborates to share practices, tackle challenges, and adapt to maintain relevance A central platform facilitates a community of practice among cultural stewards, enabling the rapid adoption of best practice across the sector. The platform enables access to advanced technologies for customised experiences. Effective governance enables our cultural icons to quickly invest in relevant futures.
A central, national infrastructure is bespoke to the needs of Australia’s digital collections
Centralised infrastructure ensures secure preservation of Australia’s national collections, enables ongoing humanities and social science innovation, and provides for transparency in government services. The platform achieves efficiencies of scale and ensures strong value from a single investment.
End-to-end management of cultural collections occurs in a secure digital environment, controlled by our diverse collecting institutions
The platform ensures that collections can be managed, preserved, and enjoyed by the communities for which they have most relevance. From major international leaders to small community archives, collection stewards have access to secure facilities and full control over their collections.
Trove: Australia’s National Treasure
The role of Trove
Trove is a digital platform that provides access to over 6 billion cultural heritage items from around 900 Australian collecting institutions. Trove offers collecting institutions a digital presence alongside their physical footprint. For Australians, it is a digital public service that offers a single access point to a vast amount of data and information related to Australia’s cultural and intellectual heritage.
Cultural institutions develop their collections based on their collecting remit and collection development policies. The collections they hold cover a range of formats, topics, and time horizons.
Collections are stored in dedicated locations with controlled conditions and dedicated programs to preserve the items over time.
Collections are accessed by patrons with diverse needs and interests.
Trove’s success to date
Trove attracts a strong and loyal user base who visit frequently and spend a long time viewing the items related to their diverse needs. Today, Trove end-users spend more time viewing an item and its content than simply search, cite, or borrow.
Trove’s cultural heritage collection covers a vast range of topics and formats made possible through partnership arrangements with Australian galleries, libraries, archives, museums, research, and community organisations. These are referred to as Trove Partners. Trove Partners also have access to services to support their back-end operations delivered under Trove Collaborative Services (TCS).
Trove is built on decades of shared data collaboration between Australian libraries. This tradition has enabled Trove to provide access to the collections of 900 TCS partners, most of them libraries. However, the growth opportunity is in appetite for digital services; the utility of long-standing metadata services – which underpin these - is in decline. This Strategy lays a path to investment in the growth opportunity of meeting user demand for digital content, rather than legacy services.
Trove is a source of trusted data and information for interest, education, research, or profit. Humanities education and research plays a fundamental role in understanding how our society and economy can adapt to complex challenges. Access to large data sets and sophisticated digital tools facilitates an understanding of human, cultural and societal processes, trends, and interactions over time. It encourages big picture thinking and interrelationships across a range of factors.
A Future for Trove
The Library has sufficient resources to maintain Trove until June 2023. The future of Trove beyond July 2023 will be dependent upon available funds. To achieve the full strategic vision will require substantial investment. More modest investment sustained over a longer term would enable achievement of the strategy at a measured pace. In a limited funding environment, Trove may reduce to a service focused on the National Library of Australia’s collections. Without any additional funds, the Library will need to cease offering the Trove
Trove’s evolution reflects the opportunities of technological developments as well as demand from its users. Trove has benefited from deliberate investment in building digital capability and collaborative partnerships with other collecting institutions. These developments have attracted new audiences fuelling further demand for more digital capabilities and digital content.
Trove has received substantial support from both Government and the cultural sector. Recognising the increasing costs of digital services and other pressures upon Library budgets, the Australian Government has allocated additional funds to support Trove since 2016-17. This has enabled ongoing maintenance of the service, a new user interface, bug fixes and an expansion of Trove content. In 2022-23, the Library will receive $5.2 million to maintain the service and deal with pressing cyber-security risks. This funding, while welcome,
is not sufficient to modernise the service, or advance the Library’s vision.
Trove Partners also contribute to the operating costs of the service. Their contributions support 44% of the running costs. However, this revenue is expected to decline as a result of fiscal pressure on the partner community and Trove’s currently limited collaboration features, which do not include management of digital objects.
The cultural sector continues to embrace digital mediums and technology and expand into new digital services such as full-text retrieval, all of which increases online resources and records. Institutions that have not embraced digital capabilities are predicted to become obsolete over time and their collections at risk of loss. The magnitude of investment in digital capabilities that the cultural sector requires to support this shift is beyond the financial capacity of any individual collecting institution.
Trove has the basis to step into this gap. However, competing pressures – needs for digital advancement and need to lower service cost – present a paradox that cannot be resolved without additional investment. Trove’s capacity to do so is now exhausted.
Strategic Vision for Trove
Trove’s purpose is to enable cultural content to be managed, explored, and engaged with digitally.
Trove’s vision is that all Australians engage with cultural collections without barriers and over generations for a strong connection with Australia’s cultural history.
Trove’s mission is making high quality cultural content freely accessible to power a sense of Australian identity, foster an inclusive society, grow the economy through education and innovation and positively impact societal wellbeing.
Trove’s trusted collections must continue to reflect the breadth and depth of Australia’s cultural heritage and foster a sense of who we are and what we can be.
Trove’s user groups
Trove has three user groups distinguished by their unique needs along the collection management lifecycle. Their definition along with an understanding of their needs allows services to be developed and delivered accordingly. Individuals and organisations may be affiliated with one or more user groups.
Content Stewards collect items related to Australia’s culture on behalf of Australians of all generations.
They include galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and local historical societies that may be large or small, funded or volunteer-run. They share a common goal to have their collections preserved and accessed now and over time.
Content Stewards seek and secure funding for their programs and services, and grow their collections based on their remit and collection policies.
Content Stewards participating in Trove are referred to as Trove Partners and use Trove’s shared digital infrastructure to store, preserve and manage these collections. They are responsible for identifying, acquiring, managing, and preserving their digital collections for the purpose of providing patron access to them. This includes decisions on which physical items to digitise, administering digitisation programs, and providing their digital collections to Trove to build a national, combined collection.
Content Stewards use their own workflows and technology systems to interface with Trove’s backend systems. They retain ownership and responsibility for the management of their collections – cataloguing, description, discovery aides and access permissions. Trove acknowledges them as the owner of the items for Content Consumers and Creators to see.
Content Stewards use Trove as a channel to deliver engagement programs that connect content Consumers and Creators to their collections and related collections from other Trove Partners.
Trove’s value proposition: Content Stewards will experience lower barriers to managing digital collections and have access to digital infrastructure and ready-made services without a high capital funding outlay.
Content Consumers are individuals or organisations who view and interact with the content in Trove and may obtain copies of content where rights and permissions exist. The reasons for their search vary from interest, education, research, or profit. This group includes the public, students, educators, researchers, businesses, and vendors in the cultural heritage sector.
Content Consumers can explore, engage, and extract copies of content in the collection to inform themselves or their work. They may enhance discovery of the records they are accessing through text correction, transcription, linkages, tagging and indexing and creating lists.
Content Consumers engage with content on cultural topics of their choosing and may request additional content be digitised. Trove’s functions and their development are informed by how these users engage with Trove’s content. Whilst on Trove, they may note the owning Content Steward, but this is not the focus of their experience.
Trove’s value proposition: Content Consumers will be able to engage with and explore Australia’s trusted source of cultural collections online from any location.
Content Creators are individuals or organisations that create appealing, new, and engaging content based on their rigorous interrogation of data on different topics. The content they create can be educational or entertaining. Their creations are stored in Trove and often attracts others to engage and explore these topics further.
Examples of Content Creators include broadcasters, publishers, researchers, innovators, creatives, exhibition creators and developers. They enrich the whole collection, fostering a community of exchange, innovation, and better knowledge outcomes.
Trove’s value proposition: Content Creators will be able to create and exchange with Australia’s trusted source of cultural collections online from any location for research, reference, and reuse.
Trove’s Digital Infrastructure
Trove aims to be a secure, modern, digital platform with three distinct components. It has a single access point to the combined collections from Content Stewards; its digital infrastructure is used for hosting digital content and is specific to the needs of these cultural collections; and it is a platform that provides the foundations for developing and delivering collection management services.
The intrinsic value of these combined collections for research and education, for our understanding of our history and our national story, is significant. Yet the realisation of this intrinsic value requires the collections to be preserved and connected to those who use them. Trove makes Australian cultural heritage content easier to find, share and use.
Its strength will be measured by its ability to cater for the expected growth of national digital collections and the expectations of those that seek to use Trove’s collections. Such digital infrastructure is rapidly changing and requires substantial financial investment, which individual cultural institutions are unable to realise alone.
Sharing Trove’s digital infrastructure and its associated capabilities enables the efficient storage and preservation of digital collections. Collective hosting of digital collections enables technology – machine learning and artificial intelligence – to be applied to the combined collection for the purpose of enriching its discovery.
Trove does not seek to unify Content Stewards, but rather to embed digital capabilities into these organisations to amplify the value of Australia’s cultural collections. As these are different, they can personalise the services to their unique circumstances offering them ‘choice and control’.