Kilometres of magnetic tape reveal the richness of Tasmania’s history

Over 5 000 collection items in the Tasmanian Archives are being digitised by a small team of archivists and digital services officers at Libraries Tasmania in a large project coordinated by Karin Haveman, Manager for Government Archives and Preservation.

The team, alongside external contractors, are tracking to complete the project well before a 2025 deadline – with the aim of digitally preserving all magnetic media material for future generations, and for most content to be accessible on the Libraries Tasmania catalogue and Libraries Tasmania YouTube channel from 2023.

So why the hurry?

In 2015, the National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA) published a paper (PDF here) outlining three key reasons why magnetic tape produced in the twentieth century is at risk. These are tape degradation, technical obsolescence, and loss of human expertise.   

What are magnetic tape formats?

Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin, magnetisable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic film. It was developed in Germany in 1928, based on magnetic wire recording. They can include VHS, Betacam, U-matic, PC floppy disks, CDs or audio cassettes.

Libraries Tasmania received funding from the Australia Government to start the Preservation and Digitisation project in 2020 with the aim of digitising the entire magnetic media collection at the Tasmanian Archives by 2025 at the very latest.

Thousands of items are now digitised and will be searchable on the Libraries Tasmania catalogue from 2023 onwards.

The significance of having online access to the Tasmanian Archives film and audio files can’t be underestimated – making these items discoverable online to anyone around the world is essential for the preservation of Tasmanian heritage and history. 

“Apart from the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the NFSA, Libraries Tasmania is one of the libraries in Australia that has a larger audio-visual collection,” said Karin Haveman.

“Many libraries and archives would donate audio-visual collections to the NAA or the NFSA, a state government or national organisation. Libraries Tasmania is part of the state government, and so our collection is quite large. The Tasmanian Archives has kept all of the audio-visual collection (including original footage of the thylacine and Royal visits to Tasmania).

“The film archives bring a lot of richness to the Tasmanian people on how it was, and how things go … especially a landmark like Cadburys for Tasmania… [there was a film] showing the whole process of how the cocoa comes to us from the plantations in Gold Coast of North Africa, now Ghana, at the time when the exhibition ‘By Mountain and Sea: 100 Years of Cadbury’s at Claremont was showing in the State Library of Tasmania Reading Room. We [also] discovered a beautiful Lake Pedder film taken prior to the flooding that nobody had ever seen before … that footage is just beautiful.”

The digitisation process involved viewing and converting the material to digital format and storing the files in Preservica, a preservation files software application. The team also performed critical conservation work on the physical objects themselves, unpacking the films and audio reels, rehousing and cleaning them, before shelving carefully in the new Geilston Bay Repository housing the Tasmanian Archives.

You can look forward to exploring unseen footage when it is made available in early 2023 through the Libraries Tasmania catalogue, YouTube and other social media platforms. All Tasmanian Archives digitised material will be available to the public by request, with a small amount limited by copyright and other considerations.

Do you have magnetic tapes at home?

Magnetic-based tape in general has a life span of 10 to 20 years but can last much longer if stored in the right conditions.

If you have tapes produced in the twentieth century, consider asking a local vendor to digitise them.

Image credit: photo of Tasmanian Archives – photographer: Miu Lee

Libraries Tasmania opens its doors for Open House Hobart

Are you a fan of late twentieth century architecture?

Have you always wondered about the origins and secrets of the Libraries Tasmania State Library and Archives building in Murray Street, Hobart?

Well, you’re in luck, because Libraries Tasmania is once again participating in the Open House Hobart program on Saturday, 12 November 2022.

Visitors can book a tour of our heritage-listed building (architect: Public Works Department / John F. D. Scarborough and Associates (1960, 1972)) – and can expect truly fascinating insights into this ground-breaking piece of architecture!

The State Library and Archives building was the first major concrete frame building in Hobart, and its façade is the earliest example in Hobart of a Modernist glass ‘curtain wall’.

Sleek mid-century details can be found throughout, while the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts features nationally significant Tasmanian colonial art, books, objects and furniture. Next door, the striking ‘Brutalist Stack’ building houses the Tasmanian Archives and provides access to one of the highest vantage points in the city.

Tours are available at available at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm. Tours will fill up fast so book now to ensure you don’t miss out!

Tours are 45 minutes long, wheelchair friendly and suitable for children.

Friends of the Allport seasonal talks: Gardeners, plant collectors, friends – Hobart Town and beyond

Ann Cripps, a garden lover and historian who has lectured and written for many years on all aspects of Tasmanian garden history, has published a book, Gardeners, plant collectors, friends: Hobart Town and beyond.

The book is the result of many years of research in libraries and other institutions in Australia and the United Kingdom.

In her talk on Tuesday 18 October from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Ann will focus on the fascinating network of gardeners and plant collectors with links to the Allport collection who have contributed to the horticultural history of Van Diemen’s Land.

Book a seat on Eventbrite. Can’t make it? Register online for the webinar.

Image: Allport, Mary Morton, Evett & Grouse / M.M.A., drawing Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania. https://stors.tas.gov.au/AUTAS001124060526w800

Ann Larkins and the Spaces of the King’s Female Orphan School – PHA (Vic &Tas) talk at the Allport

Do you have an interest in Tasmanian history and want to hear from researchers about their discoveries?

The next Professional Historians Association (Vic & Tas) talk at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts is on Thursday 6 October from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.

Listen to Ann-Marie Ezzy explore the spaces of an orphanage, the King’s Female Orphan School, which opened in Hobart Town in 1828, and discover how its operation incarcerated the children of convicts like Ann Larkins.

Book a seat on Eventbrite. Can’t make it? Register online for the webinar.

Image: Digitised item from: Tasmanian Archives: Public Works Department – Plans – Male and Female Orphan Schools – former to be built at New Town, latter at Hobart Town and Plan of the Orphan Schools. https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/PWD266-1-1458

Tasmanian Archives on the move: from Berriedale to the new Geilston Bay Repository

The Tasmanian Archives collection will be relocating from Berriedale to a new facility at Geilston Bay – the Geilston Bay Repository – from September to November 2022.

While we move there will be a period of time when records may not be available.


Have you seen the new mural at the Geilston Bay Repository?

Contemporary artist Josh Foley, based in Launceston, Tasmania, has recently made his artwork Waves of Time on the new archives building. Josh describes his work as relating to “a kind of ocean of space/time whereby we are mapping and co-ordinating our current perspective based upon all the data we choose to keep”.

The mural was commissioned as part of the Arts Tasmania and Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme.


We are looking forward to working in our brand-new archive space!

If walls could talk: researching the stories and histories of Tasmanian buildings

Do you know when your house was built, or who lived there before? Or, do you want to find out more about where an ancestor lived in Tasmania?

Visit in person at the State Library and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room from early August.

Showing until March 2023, our building history display at the State Library and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room illustrates different pathways to finding out more about the history of your own home, or a place from the past that may have significance to your family heritage.

These historic photographs and films, newspapers, census records, maps, house plans, deeds and land grants – all reveal a rich insight into the structural history and architecture of a particular building, as well as the varied lives of inhabitants. 

Learn how to find out how a property may have changed over time, research past owners and occupiers, and discover the origins and significance of places and communities in the surrounding regions.

Curious about what you might find in the Tasmanian Archives? Home to more than 1.2 million archive and heritage items, you can easily explore the archives from your own device.

Image citation: Tasmanian Archives: Photograph – House at Dodges Ferry (1896), NS1553/1/469


National Family History Month

Records and indexes and archives, oh my!

Have you ever wondered what history your home holds? Is there talk about a long-lost family farm? Do you have a family tree that spans the world?

August is National Family History Month (NFHM), and our State Library, Tasmanian Archives and Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts at Libraries Tasmania are hosting talks that will spark your interest. Hosted by historians and family history experts, the talks will take you on a journey as you discover how to use convict records, the Names Index, TROVE, our Tasmanian Archives, and more.

Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the webinars and enjoy from the comfort of your home.

Whether you’re new to family history research or a seasoned expert, why not try one of our many fascinating Family History Month talks – here is just a selection from Eventbrite:

Keep up with the current conversation on Libraries Tasmania SoundCloud. Download the Family History Month talks program here (PDF, 2.5MB)


91 STORIES… the Mt. Wellington Park: Map of roads and tracks!

Let’s take a closer look at the Mt. Wellington Park: Map of roads and tracks! Read the full story behind the original Mt Wellington map and its creator on the State Library and Tasmanian Archives blog.

Find your favourite and familiar walking tracks. The Fingerpost Track, Crocodile Rock, and the Mount Arthur Ski Slopes are just some of the many features that can be found on a stunning map of kunanyi/Mount Wellington produced in 1935 by the Hobart Walking Club.

The map, drawn by renowned Tasmanian artist Vernon Hodgman (1909-1984) and created to make the mountain more accessible, is a snapshot in time and features the unfinished road to the pinnacle as well as the main walking trails and huts.

Two walkers and a skier stride around the outside – Vernon Hodgman’s original mock-ups of these three figures appear in the display ‘By Mountain and Sea’: 100 years of Cadbury’s at Claremont, which showed at the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room from January to July.

Read the full story behind the original Mt Wellington map and its creator on the State Library and Tasmanian Archives blog on The Art of Mapping kunanyi/ Mount Wellington or by visiting libraries.tas.gov.au/GetCurious

View the 91 STORIES online exhibition

Hungry for more stories? This year we are digging deeper into a selection of the 91 Stories exhibition.

Curated from selections by the Tasmanian public, the exhibition includes your favourites from the State Library of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archives and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.

Libraries.tas.gov.au/91stories

#GetCurious #91Stories #GetTheFullPicture

91 STORIES… The Toreador!


Watch The Toreador live in performance at Stories After Dark. Find out more about attending this special event by following on Facebook or Eventbrite.


This year we are getting curious and digging deeper into a selection of the 91 Stories exhibition.

Curated from selections by the Tasmanian public, the exhibition includes your favourites from the State Library of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archives and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.

Let’s take a closer look at The Toreador…

A single item can be a window into a story that weaves itself across locations and generations. And a ‘musical score’ – the sheets of music notes used for a performance – owned by a notable (yet until recently, largely forgotten) Tasmanian woman is one of these windows…

Read about the full story of Lucy Benson in The Lady Conductor and the Score of the Toreador in the State Library and Tasmanian Archive Blog.

View the 91 STORIES online exhibition.

Libraries.tas.gov.au/91stories

#GetCurious #91Stories #GetTheFullPicture

Get Curious

This year, Libraries Tasmania will be celebrating the key cultural collections of the State Library of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archives and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.

We will be inviting you once again to discover more about Tasmania’s past, and how you can play a role in telling Tasmania’s stories. 

So, get ready to… Get Curious!

Many Tasmanians sent us their favourite object, image or manuscript from the collections of the State Library of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archives and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts to create the beautiful 91 Stories Exhibition in 2021.

This year we will delve deeper into just a few of the 91 Stories. Stay tuned for information about upcoming events and to hear from our archivists and people in our community with connections to these stories, who will help bring them to life.

Rediscover our 91 STORIES online exhibition.