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State Library’s digitised collections showcased by Google’s Cultural Institute

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In 2015 the Library began sharing some of its digitised collections on Google’s Cultural Institute. This is a free site to discover exhibits and collections from museums, libraries, galleries and archives all around the world.

The Library has created a number of galleries within the ‘Historic Moments’ section, highlighting some of our most significant collections, such as the Holtermann glass plate negative collection, depicting the NSW central west gold mining towns of Hill End and Gulgong at the height of the gold boom in the 1870s. ‘Discovering Antarctica’ features maps, photographs and artworks documenting the many voyages of discovery to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, including a number of iconic Frank Hurley photographs from Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), 1911-1914. The Library’s First Fleet collections of original journals, correspondence, artworks and maps of the British settlement in NSW are featured, along with selections from the 2014 First World War exhibition, ‘Life Interrupted: from civilian to soldier’ and a gallery of works by First World War soldier-artist, Leslie Hore.

Some of the other institutions that have a presence on Cultural Institute include the Smithsonian Museums, Acropolis Museum in Greece, Alvar Aalto Museum in Finland, Azerbaijan National Art Museum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. 

Art Camera images

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Google staff preparing to photograph a map from the State Library's collection

Google staff photographing a map, image by State Library photography, 2015

The State Library is the first library in Australia to load a collection of art camera images  onto the Cultural Institute site. This project was a collaboration between the Library's Research & Discovery branch and the new DX Lab which focuses on delivering creative, engaging and new ways to explore the Library’s collections, data sets and services through a diverse range of digital experiences.

In 2015 staff from Google worked at the Library for a week to scan at extremely high resolutions, selected items in the Library’s collection, capturing minute details often impossible to see with the naked eye.

These included some of our most significant items, such as the Tasman map which depicts the two voyages Abel Tasman made to the west and north coasts of Australia in the 17th century. By zooming into the digitised map, minute details can be seen, such as the charting of the coastlines, the naming of landmarks and the soundings recorded along the coastlines.

Other items that have been scanned include works from the Library’s significant art collection; a landscape by John Glover; Hobart Town, taken from the garden where I lived, a number of works by convict artists, such as Joseph Backler and Joseph Lycett which include views of Bathurst and Port Macquarie in the early years of settlement. A highly detailed, four page sketch depicting a flood at Windsor in 1816 has been loaded, along with a drawing by 19th century Aboriginal artist, Mickey of Ulladulla.

Google street view of the Library

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Preparing to scan a panorama view of Sydney at the State Library of NSW

Preparing to photograph a panorama of Sydney at the State Library of NSW, image by State Library photography, 2015

You can explore inside the Library’s reading rooms and other beautiful spaces, often inaccessible to the public, by delving into Google street view images of the Library’s interior. 

See artworks and objects from the Library’s collection in our public spaces, such as the Sir William Dixson Library, view the famous Tasman map mosaic in the Mitchell Library foyer and explore close up the stained glass windows in the Mitchell Library Reading Room.  You can virtually sit at one of the tables in the reading room, browse books on the shelves on the mezzanine level (where members of the public cannot venture) and examine the old Mitchell card catalogues still in use in the Reading Room.  

Virtually visit the Library’s Shakespeare Room and see the impressive wooden panelling (Tasmanian blackwood, treated to resemble English oak) and ceiling decoration, the design being inspired by the Tudor style of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s closet in Hampton Court Palace.

Other exceptional examples of the woodcarver’s skill are the two intricately carved pillars just inside the door. 

Above the door inside the room is Queen Elizabeth I’s coat of arms, which is repeated on the wooden cornice alternating with the coat of arms of the Earl of Southampton, who was one of Shakespeare’s patrons. Queen Elizabeth’s coat of arms bears her motto Semper eadem (‘Always the same’) and the inscription Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Shamed be he who thinks evil of it’). Outside above the doorway and on the glass doors is Shakespeare’s own coat of arms, granted to his father John Shakespeare in October 1596. The motto Non sanz droict translates as ‘Not without right’.