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Australian newspapers--searched and found!

Across the nation the search continues for missing Australian newspapers, filling the gaps in the newspaper puzzle which help document Australia's past. This newspaper heritage provides us with valuable insights into Australia's social and political history. Photographs, pictures and even advertisements, can be interesting sources of information about bygone times.

Together, the national, state and territory libraries in Australia have embarked on an ambitious program to recover all the newspapers missing from Australian collections. Conceived by the National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) Public Programs and Communications Working Group (PPCWG), this 'Search and Rescue' campaign has been a joint publicity campaign of the national, state and territory libraries. These libraries, all members of the Australian Newspaper Plan (www.nla.gov.au/anplan), have recruited the help of the public in finding newspapers which are missing from the national collection. The campaign has also provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the role of libraries in collecting, preserving and providing access to Australian newspapers. Once a newspaper has been found, it can be copied and made permanently accessible to all Australians.

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The Australian public's support for this campaign has been overwhelming, with many enquiries and offers of assistance. The public clearly understands the significance of newspapers and is interested in working with libraries to ensure that permanent access to them is preserved. Among the interesting finds during the campaign has been the Spring Creek Advertiser and Rodney Standard (1868-69). This newspaper from the central Victoria region has been donated to the State Library of Victoria. This was an exciting acquisition as this newspaper was known to have existed, but no copies of it had ever been sighted by Library staff or by leading historians working in this area. The volume covering 1868-69 was found in the archives of a local newspaper office in Heathcote, and following the publicity associated with the Search and Rescue campaign, members of the local historical society contacted the National Library to report its existence.

Another newspaper which has turned up as a result of the campaign has been Port Lincoln's Western Weekly News. Until the donation of five 1902 editions of this newspaper title, the State Library of South Australia had only anecdotal information of the existence of any issues apart from the already held single (unnumbered) 23 March 1904 issue. This edition had a hand-written contemporary note on the front stating it was the last issue. The State Library of South Australia now has a total of six issues plus one page of a seventh issue--mounted on a piece of plywood! The donated issues have received conservation treatment, with the page mounted on plywood having been successfully removed, prior to being microfilmed.

The Western Weekly News, a four-page (i.e. single folded sheet) tabloid, was produced by Thomas Borthwick, a Port Lincoln printer. According to Anthony Laube, Newspaper Collections specialist at the State Library of South Australia, the main interest in this find lies in the fact that it was the only newspaper for that district at the beginning of the 20th century. It contained irregular 'correspondents' news' from a handful of small towns on the Eyre Peninsula, in particular Franklin Harbour and Streaky Bay, as well as items from the main centre--the newspaper's base-- Port Lincoln. There are also snippets of church news and references to local sport--cricket, tennis and golf.

Interestingly, a significant number of the newspapers which are turning up as a result of the Search and Rescue campaign were not previously known to exist. Five bound volumes of The Examiner: North-West (from 1968 and 1969)--an edition not previously known to exist--have been found and acquired by the State Library of Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Weekly Courier (1913-1914) has been classified as one of the nationally significant missing newspapers which Australian Newspaper Plan libraries hope to find. As a result of the Search and Rescue campaign, two issues from 1913 and 1914 were found and acquired by the State Library of Tasmania. Other issues remain to be located.

A list of newspapers from all states and territories which are known to be missing is available on the National Libraries of Australia's Australian Newspaper Plan website: www.nla.gov.au/anplan/about/collect.html. The Australian Newspaper Plan libraries hope that in the coming months many more missing newspapers will be located and a more complete picture of Australia's past will emerge.

Dr. Hilary Berthon

Coordinator, Australian Newspaper Plan
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Author:Berthon, Hilary
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:738
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