New WWI Website from State Library NSW

Screenshot of SLNSW WWI website home pageThe State Library of New South Wales holds the diaries and letters of over five hundred people who served in World War I. Today they launched a new section of their website to make these more accessible to the public and to seek more information about the diarists from family members.

A few months ago I wrote some posts about this collection and added a page on this blog to help people find the transcriptions of the diaries on the State Library website. As I said at the time volunteers are still transcribing diaries. Currently the diaries of 238 people have been transcribed but this will increase until the transcription process is completed in the middle of 2014.

Today I have taken down the page on this site where I listed the diaries that had been transcribed as at the beginning of September. The State Library now has an easily searchable list which will be continually updated. This will be a more reliable source than my page.

I encourage you to explore the Library’s WWI commemoration pages. There is a wealth of material there. Here are some of what I think are the highlights of the website: Continue reading

Search For WWI Soldier Diaries Held by State Library NSW

One of the many postcards soldiers sent their families from northern France during WWI.

One of the many postcards soldiers sent their families from northern France during WWI.

11/11/2013: I have taken down the page referred to in this post because the State Library of NSW has launched a new portal to their WWI collection and now have one page on their website which lists all the transcribed diaries. See my post ‘New WWI Website from State Library NSW‘ for an overview and links to the Library’s WWI pages.

Are the World War I diaries or letters of the person you are researching available on the website of the State Library of New South Wales?

The Library has a collection of over two hundred diaries written by people serving in WWI which they are transcribing and making available on their website.  Yesterday I gave a brief talk about my research using the LIbrary’s European War Collecting Project to professional historians from around Australia who were meeting in Sydney.  As I mentioned in my last post about Archie Barwick’s diaries, the State Library of NSW collected these diaries in the aftermath of WWI and volunteers are spending many hours transcribing them. This is an ongoing project, there are many more to transcribe.

After my talk yesterday some historians expressed interest in accessing this collection.  In order to assist professional historians and family historians access the collection I have created a spreadsheet listing the names of those who wrote the diaries which are held in the collection together with links to the pages on the State Library of NSW website where you will hopefully find the transcriptions and images of the pages of the diary you are interested in.

The spreadsheet is available on a new page on this blog, ‘Search WWI Diaries at State Library of NSW’.

Please let me know whether you find this spreadsheet useful in the comments below.

Happy searching!

Addendum 2/9/2013

The State Library has many plans for the centenary of WWI and is eager for people who are researching any of the authors of these diaries to contact them directly.  Please contact:

if you have any information about these diarists to share.

The Diaries of a WWI Soldier

Soldiers Diaries AdvCThere were many advertisements just like the one above, placed in newspapers around Australia after the end of World War I. The soldiers of Australia’s citizen army had finally returned and some of them brought with them intimate historical records of the war – the diaries they had composed on the battlefronts. The principal librarian of the State Library of New South Wales, supported by the Library’s trustees, recognised the value of these records and set about collecting them through these advertisements.

The European War Collecting Project is a significant collection held by the State Library of NSW. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in these soldier diaries. The volunteers at the State Library have done a tremendous amount of work transcribing them which is enabling me to examine the diaries digitally.

I am still in the midst of working with these diaries but I realised early on that the diaries of Archie Barwick are a significant part of this collection. The day after I had quickly glanced at one of his diaries I received an invitation to a book launch at the State Library of New South Wales. Harper Collins has recognised the significance of his diaries and has now released these diaries in book form.

four people gathered around a table looking at the original diaries.

Looking at Archie Barwick’s diaries at the launch: Elise Edmonds (State Library NSW), David Hassall, Judy Hassall and Alex Byrne (State Librarian, State Library NSW). Photographer: Joy Lai, State Library of NSW.

Continue reading

GLAMming it Up – Two Days in Melbourne

Entrance to State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria

Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are known as the GLAM institutions. I spend a lot of time in these places doing research, but I also enjoy visiting exhibitions and taking behind the scenes tours.  When I travel I try to squeeze in an exhibition or two.  Unfortunately I find that I often don’t have much time to do this so I either miss out or I have to cram as much as I can into a short space of time.

I’ve written previously about my two-day GLAM tour of Canberra.  Last month I did a similar two-day intensive GLAM tour of Melbourne. So hold onto your hats and breathe deeply. My whirlwind tour is about to begin! Continue reading

Public Education: It’s Not Just About Schools

Mildura Carnegie Lirary

Mildura’s Carnegie Library with WWI memorial tower.
Photo by Mattinbgn (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

When we talk about public education we immediately think of schools. Increasingly we are recognising that education is a life-long endeavour and with the explosion of the internet learning outside of the classroom and formal education systems is gaining increasing prominence.  Last week at the Buildings, Books and Blackboards conference in Melbourne we were encouraged to recognise that ‘public education’ throughout the last two hundred years has always encompassed more than the activities conducted in a school classroom.

This conference was about public education in the true sense of the word ‘public’.  Schools and libraries were considered important sites of learning. The libraries of the mechanics institutes played an important part in the education of many people.  This conference covered it all; the history of schools, libraries and mechanics institutes.

A highlight of the conference was the session about the Carnegie Corporation in the Antipodes.  Andrew Carnegie founded the corporation in order to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”  Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin observed, “[t]he corporation will take from the shoulders of its founder the task of personally attending to his pet hobby of founding libraries here, there, and everywhere.”  The Morning Bulletin went on to note that the Corporation would also fund “technical schools, institutions of higher learning” etc. (Morning Bulletin, 23/12/1911, p. 6). Continue reading