AIATSIS on Trove

Discovering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander records on Trove

This post comes from our guest bloggers Jenny Wood and Bryce Gray from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this post may contain images and names of deceased people.

At AIATSIS we are broadening our horizons when it comes to sharing our information with the world.

We are a small government agency who conduct and promote research, collect and publish materials about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories, languages and stories.

Located within the walls of our humble building on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, is the world’s most extensive collection of content focused solely on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It reflects the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia and was recently referred to as a ‘place of pilgrimage’ by an independent assessor.

But not everyone can make the trip to the Canberra to visit us.    

AIATSIS on Trove                  

One of our aims is to ensure our collection is accessible and valued. As many of our clients live in some of the most remote parts of Australia, delivering information using the latest technology is essential. Trove is an important tool for us to achieve this goal.

While records of the majority of our printed collections already exist on Trove, we have been working hard recently on a project with the National Library to load our unique catalogue and index records relating to other parts of our collection.

Photographic collection

We hold the world's most comprehensive photographic record of Australia's Indigenous people, some 650,000 photos in all. Over 400 pictorial collection records, rich in metadata, have now been added to Trove.

The records feature the AIATSIS Pathways Thesaurus headings for culturally appropriate subjects, place names and language groups. A summary in each record gives descriptions of images including names of persons photographed. This helps clients find unique images taken or collected by missionaries and researchers across Australia. 

lantern slide

A lantern slide from the United Aborigines Mission collection - Colebrook Home being prepared for scanning. Picture courtesy of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Moving image collection

There are more than 5,000 video titles and 6.5 million feet of film, in our moving image collection. It holds original film, analogue video and born digital items. The collection includes original ethnographic films, documentaries featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, ceremonies, oral history, research seminars as well as footage from a range of important events.

Over 300 moving image records are viewable on Trove, including the unique records forIndigenous Communities Stories, a project recording oral histories of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. A short film is produced for each story and published online; the raw footage is archived at Perth's Film and Television Institute as well as AIATSIS.

Audio collection

Most of our audio collection is unique and unpublished and houses approximately 40,000 hours of recordings. The recordings document Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, songs and oral histories, and in many cases are the only places these ceremonies and stories are recorded. With many Indigenous languages at risk of disappearing, they may soon become the final record of this important cultural knowledge. 

Over 2,500 audio collection records are now on Trove.


Biographical index

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Biographical Index (ABI) is a person and place name index of published works in our print collection. It is focused predominately on ‘ordinary people’ and was designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history researchers.

The second stage of the project to migrate the information from the ABI is complete, with approximately 55,000 records, relating to over 33,000 individuals, now available on Trove.

Importance for community

Family history research is one of the main reasons communities and individuals use our collection. We play a vital role in helping to reunite Indigenous people who have been separated from their families and communities. Other important uses include Native Title claims, publications, documentaries and the establishment of keeping places in remote communities.


We are very excited about providing a new discovery avenue to our collection to people all across Australia, and especially to those in remote communities. The addition of these records is an important part of the trend to broaden the range of Trove users, especially in relation to Indigenous Australians.

What was once deep within a database is now visible to the world.

About the authors:

Jenny Wood has 25 years of experience in working in AIATSIS, an organisation dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. System administration of SirsiDynix’s Integrated Library Management System and training staff in using the various modules of the system are Jenny’s main areas of expertise. Her passion for training has extended to building interactive tutorials for clients on how to best use the catalogue as well as cataloguers and indexers working with materials with Australian Indigenous content.

Bryce Gray is currently the media and web content manager for AIATSIS, helping share the diverse stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures held within the Institute’s archives and research.  

DeeDicen Hunt replied on  PERMALINK


excellent! Once only I was able to visit Canberra & take the opportunity to go to AIATSIS. I had a very good reception from such helpful staff. Thank you once again. Increased coordinating with Trove is such a good move for both. Bigger & Better Databases! Yipeeee. Dee

Ken Wood replied on  PERMALINK


Well done Jenny.

Rod Stroud replied on  PERMALINK


Jenny It's fantastic to see all the work of AIATSIS staff is flowering through Trove and all you work. You are the person that has been able over the years to bring this to fruition. Rod Stroud

Helen replied on  PERMALINK



Rosemary Ritorto replied on  PERMALINK


So great to see this happening. I am always telling people over here in WA about the wonderful resources of AIATSIS! This is sich great news for the collection and sharing the knowledge with more people. Love it, way to go Jenny and the team at AIATSIS - you are heroes of the library and information world in my eyes!

Marcus wigan replied on  PERMALINK


I'd be interested in seeing the metadata protocols used fir the sound recordings, especially the IP an Cultural audit trail elements. As an aside ORCID IDs would be prudent to consider as disambiguation of records in retrieval increasingly needs this to reduce false positives and under retrieval of records. Presumably Trove will eventually (?) use ORCID Ids when located? The NLA ID numbers don't seem to do the job! I've been looking at these issues closely recently and it should move up the NLA food chain soon..

Ronald Briggs replied on  PERMALINK


Fantastic news, Jenny. This will make AIATSIS' important collections and documentary information more accessible. Congrats to you and AIATSIS staff.

Srijana replied on  PERMALINK


Congrats to you and AIATSIS staff.


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