Meet Jack, the lawnmower man
Some years ago, it came to our attention that there were a number of very detailed Trove lists all about lawnmowers - manufacturers, sales, and historical information. We were curious about the person, and the research, behind the lists. So, we got in touch to ask a few questions.
First of all, why lawnmowers?
Many folks have asked that. It can be embarrassing, and not something one would shout out - with received English accent - at a swanky dinner party: “I’m interested in lawnmowers”. I don’t even mention it at a BBQ with mates. Well, sometimes, a whisper in an ear…
The interest must have started from some childhood experience. Australians love the outdoors and the lawnmower was a part of that. I remember the smell of freshly cut grass as a child on a summer’s day in the 1960s. I was in the Garden Club at school and eventually found my way into working in a mower shop after school. I guess it was destiny that I had this odd interest.
It was only upon later reflection that I realised the lawnmower was a key facilitator of modern social life: our love of sport. The lawnmower tamed the environment – it turned grass into lawn – and gave us the beautiful sports playing fields and golf courses so prized today. It also gave us our back yard.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am an amateur researcher. Born and educated in ‘Briso’ in the 1960s, I now live in the ‘Deep South’ - Hobart, Tasmania.
I have always had an interest in history, and a great curiosity about the history of lawnmowers. Trove came to my rescue when I realized I could dispel myths and contribute to the history of garden equipment in Australia with research.
To this end, I am the Forum Administrator and Historian for OutdoorKing, a group of forums on garden equipment.
What's the one Trove find that's stuck with you?
This is about Damascus moments. I would have to say the discoveries I made about the history of the great Australian lawnmower maker, Scott Bonnar. Through Trove, I researched the history of the man, Scott Bonnar, before the Scott Bonnar firm of 1920 was formed. The research corrected a previously accepted version of the history.
What about Trove is crucial for what you do?
I feel Trove has an intuitive interface – but the crucial feature for me is Trove's filtering capacity. It’s one thing to find records of interest; it’s another thing to filter the results by relevance or date.
The downside must be complex copyright issues. The lack of post-1954 digitised newspapers prevents me from Troving those records. I wish that was resolved so as to help researchers.
How did you find out about Trove?
I found out about Trove by curious accident. The internet has evolved around search engines, and the name Trove started to appear quite a few years ago on search sites. Trove was the new kid on the block, and I started to notice it – as many did. Things progressed from there.
What have you learnt from your research in Trove?
Trove has enabled me to dispel myth and give hard historical evidence. I can see things in a new light and get a better understanding of the topic of interest.
Do you have any tips for people getting started in Trove?
I do have tips for people getting started on Trove. But I guess this depends on your intended use. Many folk have narrow, or single-topic interests. For researchers on broad topics – like lawnmowers – I have followed the following principles:
Trove benefits greatly from any improvement users can make to search results.
Everything I take from Trove, I give back in the form of text correcting. I correct the newspaper article text so it is accurate. OCR is not perfect and can miss key words for searching. I correct this so internet searchers will find it!
I screen capture every source of information I take, and I name the file logically – to give it temporal significance. For example, I start with year, month, and day, then the publication name. This enables me to understand the chronological changes to a topic.
Tags and Lists
If you want to help others, the best advice is to add tags and list your research and set your list to "public". Tags are specific to a topic; lists collate tags into categories suitable for folks researching at a broader level. These are then reflected in searches, and can be found by anybody searching Trove.
We thank Jack for his wonderful contributions to Trove and the history of the lawnmower. If you use Trove in unique and interesting ways, please let us know! You can contact the Trove team online.
This blog was first published on the National Library's Trove blog site in September 2017.