Having your story and data too: the Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism Database

Willa McDonald, Bunty Avieson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism (ACNJ) database (1788-1901) is a digital archive of colonial literary journalism. It is an expression of cultural memory in Australia using examples of colonial writers and their featured works-from the journalists who captured the bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang, to those who sailed undercover to expose the “blackbirding” trade in northern Australia, to the women who first wrote and published Australian profiles, including the earliest known written portraits of Aboriginal Australians. Research institutions are increasingly interested in creative digital dissemination strategies to target audiences for exploring, interrogating, and communicating new knowledge both within and beyond academia. At the same time, the focus of archival theory, in acknowledgement of the political framework behind archiving, has moved from evidence to memory. The online archivist has been transformed from a passive curator to a community facilitator, asking questions around the role of archives-whether the archives are being posited as projects of collective identity that serve the interests of the community in power or as diverse collections from a range of communities with differing levels of empowerment. With those factors in mind, this study explores the creation of the database and its transfer from an experimental WordPress site to being hosted by AustLit, the online national literary research resource. In the process, the study examines the issues involved in establishing and building the database, which range from attempts to define the form as it evolved in Australia's colonial history, to the potential role of the database as a cultural narrator, a creator and facilitator of cultural memory, and a creative dissemination strategy rendering social historical themes in a democratized online form that can be delivered to a broad constituency of users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-55
Number of pages24
JournalLiterary journalism studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Literary journalism
  • Journalism History
  • Digital Archives
  • Australian Journalism History
  • digital history
  • Digital history
  • Digital archives
  • Australian journalism history
  • Journalism history


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