Diaries and letters


The State Library began collecting the diaries and letters of soldiers who served in World War I through an appeal launched by the Library in December 1918. Called the European War Collecting Project it was the first project in Australia to collect the personal diaries and letters which the Principal Librarian, William Ifould, recognised as important sources for generations of Australian students and researchers.

In June 1920, the Mitchell Librarian reported that 224 war diaries had been purchased, by 1924/25 the drive had slowed and by the end of the 1920s, ceased.

The Library continues to acquire diary and letter collections and has over 1200 volumes written by over 550 diarists. In many cases diarists kept more than one volume of their writings. Some diaries are hard to read, with tiny script. Some are very clear and could have been written yesterday. We have fast-tracked the digitisation of these collections, which are available through the Library’s catalogues. See the list of diarists in our collections.


Approximately half of the diaries have been transcribed by our dedicated team of volunteers – we need your help to finish the project!

Our goal is to complete the transcriptions of the digitised collections, so that you and library staff can more easily read and search across individual diaries or the collection as a whole.  

With completed transcriptions, we can examine relationships between individuals, search for different perspectives on the same event and experience life away from the front line. 

You can try our transcription tool for yourself!

Featured
Arthur John Moore Burrowes letters and postcards to his family, 26 January 1918-15 September 1919
'If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed'

Keeping the secrets of battles fought, won and lost, makes for very clinical correspondence from ‘over there’. Reading between the lines about the realities of life in the armed forces must have been very difficult for the recipients of such scant morsels of information. It isn’t exactly a wordy message but I am sure it would have been happily received back home with the first line kept intact. See postcard.

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