The National Library of Australia’s beloved online portal Trove has been saved from the threat of imminent closure after a cash injection of $33 million from the Albanese government.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed last year the archive’s funding was due to expire at the end of June, meaning the portal was at risk of being shut down.
Trove is the single point of entry to the collections of hundreds of Australian libraries, universities, museums, galleries and archives. The community platform attracts 22 million visits each year and includes the definitive collection of digitised Australian newspapers.
In an announcement to be made on Monday, Arts Minister Tony Burke and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher will “end the funding uncertainty once and for all” and secure Trove for future generations.
The government will provide the library with $33 million over four years in the May federal budget, as well as $9.2 million in indexed ongoing annual funding.
“We know just how important Trove is to so many Australians and the Albanese government is pleased to be able to provide our National Library the funding needed to finally take Trove off life support,” Gallagher said.
“Without this funding, Trove would simply cease to exist in a few short months – and with that, free, digital access to much of Australia’s history would be denied to millions of Australians.”
The library has been facing a $13 million, or 21 per cent, cut to its operating budget from July when the former Coalition government’s funding for Trove ends.
The government says Trove will now be funded on an ongoing basis and its budget will rise to offset inflation.
The National Gallery of Australia confronts a similar funding cliff – needing $265 million to make its building waterproof and replace lifts and air conditioning – after more than a decade of enforced cost cuts affecting all national collecting institutions. Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce has added her voice to those calling for a permanent funding fix.
The library needs up to $10 million a year to maintain Trove on an ongoing basis, in addition to $1 million to maintain cybersecurity across the library’s platforms, including Trove.
This does not include the cost of adding new content to Trove, a task largely funded by philanthropy and other organisations.
The library has also identified $100 million in urgent capital works it needs over the next nine years to address fire safety and water leaks in its heritage building and meet accessibility standards.
It is fast running out of storage space and has two years to find a solution. Expansion of the library’s storehouse in suburban Canberra is likely to cost up to $40 million.
Burke said the announcement, the first of several expected funding increases for landmark cultural institutions in the May budget, “takes us a step closer to ending the budget cuts and culture wars of the previous government”.
“Trove is, in many ways, Australia’s digital memory,” he said.
“It records and retains some of our most important stories, moments, challenges, controversies and successes in one accessible location.
“Whether you’re using it to look up a bit of family history or for academic research, Trove is an incredibly important part of our national cultural institutions.”
Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, director-general of the National Library of Australia, said she was delighted Trove’s future had been secured, and she looked forward to further announcements relating to the library’s core funding, including essential building works and storage needs.
“Trove is truly a national collaboration,” she said. “We work with 900 organisational partners around the country to bring Australia’s stories together.
“We also work with generous donors – individuals and organisations – who fund content digitisation to add to our treasure trove of stories.
“And, of course, we benefit from the thousands of Australians who give their time to correct text, create lists and tag content – all to make Trove that bit better for everybody who searches it.
“Trove represents a truly generous Australian spirit.”
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