LIFE on the Border pre-Federation and during World War II is set to be much easier to explore in cyberspace.
Newspaper editions from 1881 to 1896 (The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express) and 1938 to 1942 (The Border Morning Mail) are to be digitised and uploaded to Trove, the National Library of Australia’s search engine.
Albury and District Historical Society president Greg Ryan said the move would bookend existing Trove records for Border papers and it was hoped within five years to have them extend from 1873 to 1947.
The society has received $68,877 in NSW government funding for the digitising, which will be done by the library over the next 12 months.
Historian Bruce Pennay, who instigated the society’s funding application, said the 19th century papers would provide an insight into the debates surrounding Federation on the periphery of colonial NSW and Victoria.
“I’m interested in the ideas about ‘does Albury belong in NSW or does it belong in Victoria?’,” Dr Pennay said.
“It’s the big and small picture and gives you an idea of the culture of the place, because it doesn’t take much looking in the newspapers to see if Albury sees herself as Victorian or NSW.”
Mr Ryan said the digitising of newspapers also aided those interested in family history, through reports of weddings and obituaries.
He used Trove to unearth historical references that appeared in his volume, Albury City Band – 150 Years Entertaining our Community, published last year.
“A lot of work I did on that book would have been impossible otherwise,” Mr Ryan said.
“Without Trove I would have had to spend thousands and thousands of hours in front of a microfilm.”
Albury MLA Greg Aplin said the digitising “will also allow us share our stories with a wider, global audience”.
Border Mail editor Xavier Mardling also welcomed the opportunity for more people to be able to explore the past.
“As Albury-Wodonga’s longest-serving media organisation it is pleasing to have our coverage of arguably the 20th century’s biggest event available to future generations,” Mardling said.
“It will allow internet users to get a feel for how life on the homefront was for Border residents and their connections to the war.”
Dr Pennay said it cost roughly $2.30 for each page of a newspaper that was digitised by the National Library.
He said before when archives were put on Trove it was at the direction of State Libraries and the Sydney and Melbourne bodies had not made digitising Albury-Wodonga papers a priority.
Records for The Border Morning Mail extend from 1903 to 1920, but some other regional mastheads range over much longer periods.
Examples include Wagga’s Daily Advertiser (1911-1954), Beechworth’s Ovens and Murray Advertiser (1855-1918) and The Corowa Free Press (1875-1954).
The grant to the historical society was one of 11, with Griffith Council securing $48,105 to digitally chronicle the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area’s development.
Coffs Harbour ($510,000) and Broken Hill ($433,359) received the biggest grants to showcase stories of each city.