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With the help of the Australian public, the National Library of Australia wants to shine a spotlight on our performing arts collections.

The Library’s Director-General, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA, said: ‘After several challenging years when gathering together for live performance has been precious and rare, it’s been wonderful to be able to go out again. So many memorable moments from our performing arts history are contained within the National Library, and we want to digitise this content so Australians everywhere can discover more about the stars of the past – or even look up the details of a performance they once attended.’

Among the artists whose stories we wish to share are Rose Quong (1879-1972), a Chinese- Australian actor who found fame overseas; Winifred Atwell (1914-1983), ‘The Amazing Miss A’, a ragtime piano player who was one of the most famous musicians of her time and the first woman to perform on stage at the Sydney Opera House; and Bobby and Gracie Le Brun whose papers capture the story of Australian vaudeville.

Dr Ayres said, ‘The story of Bobby and Gracie le Brun is the story of popular entertainment before television was in every home. From 1949 to 1961, they toured the east coast of Australia with Sorlie’s Travelling Vaudeville Show, travelling 24,000 kilometres a year. With a collection that includes Bobby’s diaries from 1924 to 1985, photographs, scrapbooks, posters and record collections, this collection will resonate with people living in every city and town in Australia’.

The Library’s Director of Philanthropy, Dr Conor McCarthy, said: ‘The National Library has been a leader in making cultural content available online through Trove, a resource that is used by millions of Australians every year. Philanthropic support has helped us to make even more material from our collections available on Trove, including everything from Australian almanacs, to cookery books, to fashion photography, to political archives. We have already had a generous $1m donation from the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation to help digitise our performing arts collections, and we hope the public can help us raise an additional $250,000 to bring even more of this material online.’

To support digitisation of the Library’s performing arts collections, please visit our website. Media images are available for download here.

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