Recording the nation: nationalism and the history of the National Library of Australia

Belinda Tiffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Nationalism as a force in shaping and understanding historical events, long recognised by historians, has emerged as a rich field of historiological study. Awareness of nationalism has spilled into cultural studies, where the role and history of museums has been investigated in the light of nationalistic influences. Favoured images of a nation’s history, culture and people may impact on collecting and curatorial decisions. Library historians have been slower to recognise the impact of nationalism on library collections, although national and state libraries are prone to nationalistic influences. As they purport to collect the documentary heritage of a nation and its people, they engag with questions of national identity, history and geography. This paper maps some of the intersections between nationalism and libraries by considering how changing concepts of nationhood and Australian identity have influenced the formation and development of the National Library of Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-359
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Library Journal
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • library history
  • book history
  • nationalism
  • Australian history


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