ANZAC Day, reading and the duty of memory

On ANZAC Day, we are reminded by Kipling that we are not to forget. There are different types of forgetting, though. One of the most insidious is to wrap history in mythology and ceremony, and then remember that, in place of events and people. Soon after the War this habit in Australians, to celebrate the day without remembering the fallen as people, was noticed by the librarians in our State Libraries, and they made determined efforts to collect the letters and record the voices of those who had participated in the war. Libraries have many aspirations, but this work, as keeper of popular memory, is part of our highest calling.

Each of the State Libraries, and the National Library, have extensive collections of ANZAC material. New communication technologies, and the Centenary, have allowed them to develop exhibitions of extraordinary value. As an example, I’d like to point to the blog being run by the State Library of Queensland. which is a beautifully-simple way to allow Queenslanders to interact with their past, unconstrained by distance from Brisbane or the fragility of the artifacts.

I’d also like to take a moment to highlight a work I recently stumbled across online. Internet Archive is an American not-for-profit that digitizes library collections.  On their page they have the war letters of Robert Allan, a young doctor from Southern Brisbane. His letters have recently been recorded and published as an audiobook by a volunteer on Librivox, and I’d recommend it as a perfect example of how new technology can help us to interact directly with the witnesses of history.