The Turnbull Library Record: Past and Future

Today, the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library in association with the Friends of the Turnbull Library, launch the publication of the Turnbull Library Record online. Fiona Oliver, Managing Editor of the Turnbull Library Record (TLR), and Melanie Lovell-Smith, Digitisation Advisor, have written about the project to get TLR onto the full-text searchable platform of Papers Past.

Part I: The printed Record
Fiona Oliver

Unscrupulous scholars, courtship and marriage in colonial New Zealand, women photographers, pirates, Joan of Arc, a 17th-century Persian manuscript, Earp’s bee library, the library and the cosmos – the intriguing and wide-ranging scope of articles in the Turnbull Library Record (TLR) reflects the richness of the Turnbull collections.

I’ve been involved with the TLR for 10 years; eight of those as Managing Editor. It has been a real privilege to have helped bring each issue into the light of day, to work with contributors and designers to help shape its content and aesthetic impact – the stratospheric improvement of the latter having been a bar raised by its previous editor, Peter Ireland.

It has also been a privilege to have been involved with the journal at this exciting time in the trajectory of its history – the moment of its digitisation. This is happening just as we release the 2018 issue of the printed journal, themed to acknowledge the centenary of the death of Alexander Turnbull, the Library’s founder: there is something incredibly pleasing about this conjunction of legacy, continuity and new beginnings.

Tlr 2018 Book CoverThe Turnbull Library Record 2018. The painting of Alexander Turnbull is by Sam Mitchell, reproduced with kind permission of the artist. Ref: G-062-2

The TLR currently has an annual print run of 750; with digitisation, readership is expected to become increasingly global and increase exponentially. At the same time, as we’ve learned from the example of newspapers on the Papers Past website, digitisation will, in turn, and perhaps ironically, also increase interest in and demand for the printed artefact.

Early days

First published in January 1940, the Record is New Zealand’s longest-running journal in the humanities. It has always been funded by the Friends of the Turnbull Library, founded in 1939.

The idea to publish a journal came from Chief Librarian Clyde Taylor, who had in mind models such as the British Museum Quarterly. The aim of the TLR was the same then as it is now: to publish information relating to the activities of the library; to increase knowledge of its collections; to print articles of interest to researchers and to support scholarship by making information about the collections more widely known.

The first issue was a modest pamphlet of 18 pages. Its typography and layout were influenced by historian J. C. Beaglehole, the text block’s rigid, edifice-like appearance on the page prompting the poet and printer (and later President of the Friends of the Turnbull Library) Denis Glover to disparagingly call it ‘tombstone typography’.

The 1940 cover and Intro pages of TLRThe cover and introduction of the very first issue of the Turnbull Library Record, from Jan 1940.

Glover had the chance to revitalise the look of the TLR when his Caxton Press printed Volume 3 in 1941. Glover’s typography was more elegant, and his use of antique laid paper gave the slim journal an impression of luxury – remarkable during wartime.

However, the difficulties of printing during a war left its mark on Volume 5 of the TLR, published in 1942, which was commercially set and had to be printed by the Chief Librarian in his own time. Then the journal went into abeyance until 1946, and again from 1947 until its reappearance in 1951.

Since 2008, the TLR has become an altogether more lavish publication, generously illustrated in full-colour throughout and enjoying a dramatic increase in heft – and the number of articles that can be accommodated. Its articles are peer-reviewed, and contributions continue to be of high academic calibre and lively appeal – a combination I believe is central to the distinct character and ongoing success of the journal. As Janet Paul, artist, poet, and Turnbull staff member once wrote: ‘The Record not only records and recovers, but becomes, itself, New Zealand literature’.

Unlocking the TLR’s content

Through the work of our colleagues at Index New Zealand (INNZ), readers have always been able to access abstracts of the more than 600 TLR articles published since 1940, along with related subject headings. These are available through the National Library catalogue.

Digitisation has further unlocked the sheer wealth of the detail of its content – and many surprises. I thought I knew the journal reasonably well, but dipping into back-issues online, I read for the first time Pat Lawlor’s heartfelt discussion of Katherine Mansfield enthusiast Guy Morris, who, overcome by excitement for his subject-matter, fell over dead while delivering a lecture on Mansfield at the Turnbull Library. I read that in 1971, the Library listed in its statement of expenditure $20.55 of ‘crockery written off’. (That’s about $300 in today’s money. As there’d been no such loss the previous or following years, we might speculate that that year saw wild outbreaks of teacup-throwing in meetings).

And I read too of the Turnbull Winter Lectures on the arts held during lunchtimes in 1981, and wished I’d had the presence of mind as an 11-year old to attend the talks by Toss Woollaston on painting, Jack Body music, Allen Curnow poetry, and Witi Ihimaera on literature and Maori life. Thankfully, the TLR went on to publish three of these lectures (excluding the music one for obvious reasons) in its issue the following year, and with the click of a mouse, I could assuage my regret.

Part II: Digitising the Turnbull Library Record
Melanie Lovell-Smith

The process of digitising the TLR has been burbling away in the background, on and off, since 2015. It kicked into high gear with the employment of Katie Fordyce on a short-term contract in October 2017. Katie was responsible for obtaining permissions from more than 200 authors or their descendants, so the Library could make their articles available online. She did an amazing job, whether it was calling people in Sweden at what turned out to be 3am their time, attempting to make contact with the Admiralty Library in England, which appears to be sticking firmly with a fax machine as the primary way for overseas contact, or patiently working her way through the maze of death dates, probates and electoral rolls which form the inevitable but slightly morbid part of any copyright clearance process. In the end, she obtained permission from 90% of contributors or their families – a fantastic result. (While we have you here, if you are the rights holder of any material published in the Turnbull Library Record and we haven’t spoken with you yet, please email us at paperspast@natlib.govt.nz)

We also needed to find a complete set of the TLR that we could send to our vendor in India. It needed to be a spare set that could be pulled apart and scanned, and a lot of staff helpfully uncovered copies they’d kept for rainy days. The bulk of our digitisation set came from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage library, which was looking to deaccession its run – thank you Fran!

In the case of the earliest issues, where there were no spare copies, the Turnbull Library’s wonderful Imaging Services team came to our rescue. They supplied us with high-resolution images of each page, carefully photographed from heritage copies. These digital files were sent to India and incorporated into the image conversion process.

Creating the data

The digitisation process itself took comparatively little time. The volumes arrived in India at the beginning of March and we had the first batch of data by mid-April. Unfortunately, the testing process raised a problem and we needed to have the work redone.

One of the interesting things about the journal having run for more than 70 years is that the style and layout changed over time. One of those things that changed was the location of authors’ names. The digitisation process for periodicals expects to find an author’s name immediately under the article title; however, this varied throughout the TLR’s lifetime, and many names were not identified as such because they appeared at the end of the article.

The Record was reprocessed, re-tested and accepted with a huge sigh of relief from everyone involved at the beginning of June.

Another feature (not a bug) of the TLR online again reflects the changes in the printed version over time. On the journal’s homepage you’ll see a list of the volumes on the left-hand side – a list that combines both Roman and Arabic numbers, and happily starts from Volume 1 again about quarter of the way down. This is simply a reflection of the data captured from the printed issues.

Copyright licences

As you’re scrolling through the TLR online you may fall across a page which simply says ‘This article is not available online. Please refer to the print version, available via interloan from your local library’. This is rare and occurs when the author concerned wanted to licence their work with a licence other than the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial one the Library proposed. Unfortunately, at the moment the Papers Past website only allows a copyright statement at title level, which explains the giant statement that accompanies this title.

Screenshot of the copyright statement on Papers Past for TLR

It was going to be too complicated to also include different licences for individual articles, and there was a real concern that if we did, those licences would simply not be seen. Instead, we have suppressed those articles until the happy day when the website will allow us to put a rights statements against each article. Then we can make these articles available online as well.

The full colour of later issues of the TLR isn’t reflected in the online version. We needed to find a balance between file sizes, download times, and ongoing storage costs for a journal that is mostly black and white. But the full-colour versions are available to download as a PDF, either as an individual page or as the full issue. Simply click on the ‘save a copy’ button on the top right of the screen. Be warned, however – the beautiful full-colour issues of recent years average around 60MB each – only for special occasions, perhaps.

By Fiona Oliver

Fiona is Curator of New Zealand and Pacific Publications at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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