24 March 2016
Dear Mr Turnbull,
I write on behalf of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) to protest against the severe and destructive cuts recently visited upon the national galleries, museums, archives, and libraries (GLAM). Their work remains vital, not only to academic research, but also to the community at large and more broadly to the nation’s understanding of its own identity and its own achievements, past and present. These recent cuts, on top of the ‘efficiency dividend’ regularly imposed upon the national GLAM sector’s activities, have made it impossible for them to maintain the number and quality of the services they offer Australia’s researchers as well as the nation at large.
Like most of the individuals and institutions who have protested to the government in recent weeks, we would point to the arrested development of the Trove resource at the NLA as exemplary. Trove is a vital portal to research data for all the nation’s scholarly, teaching, and cultural institutions. It is a model of its kind around the world, a point vigorously expressed by the New Zealand academics on our board, who find the cut mystifying. An efficiency dividend that kills off its maintenance and development will distribute huge inefficiencies around the nation and the globe. Literally millions of research tasks will become harder and more time-consuming. Trove underwrites much of the research humanities scholars do, and ensures its impact by providing access to the public. It underwrites education by allowing individuals to combine teaching with research more efficiently, because we no longer have to travel across the country and spend days physically located in a library finding the sources we need. The NLA is justly proud of its achievement with trove and it is clear that only acute pressure from cascading cuts would force it to consider so drastic a measure.
In addition, Trove is a vital part of the many fundamental research facilities offered by the GLAM sector for humanities researchers. Along with the Academy of the Humanities, we would extend our protest against recent cuts by asking the government to consider funding the GLAM sector through its national research infrastructure. Australian culture is not, in fact, shrinking by a couple of percent per annum, and the GLAM infrastructure for supporting it has become as lean as it can be after more than two decades of attrition. Open and searchable collections provide the essential infrastructure for the tens of thousands of academics and citizens engaged in humanities research, on the spectrum from family history to world-leading cultural analysis. When the institutions that support them are under constant stress, education, culture and research outputs suffer.
Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres