Volunteers to write latest chapter in Trove's story

Trove seeking volunteers to transcribe old magazines, journals

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RABBIT HOLE: Transcribing old newspapers and magazines has opened up a whole new world for John Warren.

RABBIT HOLE: Transcribing old newspapers and magazines has opened up a whole new world for John Warren.


Trove has given John Warren a whole new perspective on Australia's history.


When John Warren heard the National Library of Australia was looking for volunteers to transcribe old newspapers, he was more than ready to jump down the historical rabbit hole.

The 79-year-old Annerley resident has been volunteering for the library's Trove project - which involves transcription of scanned newspapers in a process known as text correction, since shortly after it launched in 2009.

In that time, he has become the project's top volunteer, correcting well over 7,000,000 lines of text and well and truly earning his place in the Trove Hall of Fame.

Having spent the last 13 years text correcting digitised versions of the nation's archived newspapers, Trove is taking on a new challenge - correcting the library's digitised books, magazines, almanacs and journals.

Trove contains 35,000 fully digitised books and about 51,000 magazines and journals, and is looking for volunteers to assist with the process of text correcting them.

John said the process of correcting old texts was a great way to gain insight into the country's history and encouraged others to volunteer for the project.

"Volunteers can find out a lot of info about the towns they grew up in, the people they went to school with," he said.

"The magazines offer a glimpse into history too, in a different way - a more pictorial way."

John said he heard about Trove at the perfect time in his life; his mother had just died, he was almost ready to close down the software business he founded and retire and described himself as being "at a loose end".

He also had a keen interest in genealogy, having written a genealogy program himself in the 1980s.

"Someone sent me a link to an article about the murder of my great, great grandfather and that sort of got me hooked on newspapers. That's what got me interested in Trove," he said.

Upon commencing volunteering for the project, John started transcribing the births, deaths and marriages sections in old editions of the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The amount of genealogical information that's included in an obituary is fantastic," he said.

"You learn about the parents, the children and their married names.

"The articles were fantastic to read - the details you could read about a person's life, especially in the early days of the pioneers - what they did for the country, how they populated Australia."

Around 10 years ago he moved onto regional and community newspapers throughout the country, including publications in Victoria, South Australia and central New South Wales.

A few years later, he started linking articles he had uncovered about people through Trove to ancestry.com, with the genealogy resource allowing him free use of the site.

"Just prior to the centenary of Anzac I spent several months solely focusing on the Anzacs - letters home, killed in action or wounded notices," he said.

"There was one chap called (Keith) McClymont. I ended up editing 34 articles referring to him and linking them to his ancestry page."

He said his work over the years had helped him gain fascinating new insights into some of Australia's most historically significant events, such as the capture of bushranger Ben Hall, the shooting of Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade.

"I read one article (about the Stockade) that said the troopers who were going out there were all country men and had no intention of starting a fight.

"But on way out somebody shot one of their drummer boys and that's what got them so angry."

In recent times, John was asked to help text correct some magazine articles and said it was a different experience to working on newspaper articles. The main difference being magazine articles contained a lot more pictures, but less text.

"I got a lot of joy out of looking at some of those articles. It was fun looking back at the pix magazines from the 50s and 60s and reliving my childhood.

"In times of leisure I can go back and look at those magazines."

National Library of Australia director-general Marie-Louise Ayres said Trove was all about making it easier for Australians to learn about the nation's history.

"By opening up the option to volunteer to transcribe books and magazines, the National Library is making it easier for Australians to explore different accounts of our shared stories," Dr Ayres said.

For more information about Trove, or to search its archives click here. For information on how to volunteer click here.