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The usefulness of digitised records when researching

For the past 2 years I have been researching Lutheran history in South Australia and their response to Hitler. It’s a fascinating topic and one that’s never been looked at before so there’s not much information and only a small portion compiled. A bit of my research happened at the Lutheran Archives of Australia (a pretty obvious place to research such a topic!) and involved the Almanacs and Lutheran newspapers – the Lutheran Herald and the Australian Lutheran. Whilst the newspapers include indexes (thank goodness for indexes!) it still took a long time to search for information, and this search was limited to what words were in the titles. Unfortunately the almanacs were even harder to look through.

As anyone will know the majority of non-government archives cost money to research at and the LAA is no exception. Having worked in archives and knowing the limited funding they receive, I support the idea of archives charging researchers, but as a researcher I do try to limit expenses. After all, I’m not being paid to research! So my time at the Lutheran archives was spent quickly and efficiently, and I came away feeling I’d missed a great deal of information. How I wished these sources were digitised!

So I came to work for Unlock the Past last month when my thesis was 99% complete. Speaking with Alan about my difficulties in researching, he presents me with the Australian Lutheran, all of which was scanned and attached to a good search engine. How delightful yet how frustrating! If only I had this two years ago! It was so easy to search and I quickly found a great deal of further information to slot into my thesis, information I would not have otherwise had as they didn't have the key words in the titles. Apparently Archive Digital Books Australasia is currently scanning the Lutheran Herald, and as I want to continue this area of research, I’m certainly looking forward to that one. Then perhaps one day they’ll do the almanacs as well (here’s hoping!).


Digital books

I've heard a similar story from a Queensland researcher who wishes the Education Gazettes had been available when doing his thesis. Instead of the hours spent in manual searching a much quicker and more comprehensive option now exists.