The Opening the Multilingual Archives of Australia (OMAA) project mobilises the considerable, under-utilised, non-English language resources about Australia to rethink our history of migration and settlement. It challenges and enriches ‘mainstream’ narratives of Australian history by generating new perspectives drawn from non-English sources in Australia’s multilingual archives.
A key new perspective in our project comes from the role of language diversity and translation in shaping Australian identity.
— to explore how users of languages other than English (and other than Indigenous languages) experience Australia.
— to examine the role of language in how people engage with and, ultimately, think of themselves as ‘Australian’ — or not.
— to equip different groups, not just scholars and policymakers, but also community groups and the general public, with tools to face the challenges of cultural pluralism.
This rich multilingual archive allows users to examine Australia’s history from non-English perspectives. The virtual archive draws on personal letters and diaries, newspapers and other publications, notes, personal papers, official documents, and visual and material culture.
Key sources include the continuous holdings of most non-English newspapers published in Australia in the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW), the National Library of Australia (NLA) and other state libraries.
Historians who adopt a ‘history from below’ approach recognise the importance of diaries, letters and ephemera. Journals, along with notes and letters, tell us about everyday life, trauma and displacement in a multilingual context. Photographs, pictures, diaries and letters are valuable tools for a broader understanding of migrant strategies of attachment to a place—particularly as expressed in differences of language and dialect.
Archivists and librarians advocate the need to conceptualise ‘the archive’ in a way that expands on sets of official written documents or records that provide elite perspectives on society. Advances in social history, innovations in visual and material culture, and the rise of digital media all contribute to ways of thinking more widely about what constitutes an ‘archive’.
This website brings together scattered and often overlooked materials produced by or about Australia and Australians, thus opening up a realm of new sources for examining Australian history.
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