State Library of NSW's unique collection of WWI soldiers' diaries recognised by UNESCO
Wednesday, 17th Dec 2014

A unique collection of soldiers’ intimate accounts of war has been included on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register, just as the State Library of NSW releases 50,000 pages of digitised World War One diaries for the public to transcribe, announced today.

According to Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive: “With the centenary of the Gallipoli landing in April and growing interest in the personal accounts of war, I am thrilled UNESCO has recognised the cultural importance of the Library’s collection  of soldiers’ diaries that tell of Australians in the First World War.”

From 1918 to 1920 the State Library purchased 236 soldiers’ diaries as part of the European War Collecting Project, an extraordinary collecting drive spearheaded by the forward thinking principal librarian William Ifould.  Recognising the historic value of these diaries for future generations, Ifould advertised in Australia and overseas with the promise of “good prices paid for good material.”

The State Library has been adding to its collection of World War One diaries and letters ever since. The collection has now grown to over 1,200 handwritten accounts by soldiers of all ranks, doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, journalists and POWs.

“The news from UNESCO is timely as we have just completed the major digitisation of our entire collection of World War One diaries and letters, 180,000 pages, made possible through the support of the NSW Government,” said Dr Byrne.

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An Anzac and some of his friends. "The Donks"
'An Anzac and some of his friends. "The Donks"'

Taken by official war photographer Frank Hurley, this image and its title are equally captivating  because it's such an ordinary photo of a young man looking after his animals in such  extraordinary circumstances. I can just imagine him saying something like 'Must be almost time to feed the donks' - an unremarkable job if he was at home, perhaps he was a farmer. Something else again at War in the Middle East. See pic.

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