Online newspaper databases have been around for quite a while now providing users with an historic treasure trove of press articles from a wide variety of titles and from different periods in time.
The State Library of Queensland enables access to these subscription only newspaper databases via its website for e-service card holders. They include the Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 searchable by key word and including all articles, advertisements and illustrations and photos, Newsbank providing acces to full text articles from more than 230 Queensland, Australian, and international titles from 1998 onwards, Library Press Display which provides a full-colour, full page collection of today’s newspapers from over 70 countries around the world in 37 languages, and National Library’s wonderful Historic Australian Papers, 1803 to 1954 which includes The Courier Mail and The Queenslander.
Before the advent of online databases librarians in the John Oxley Library clipped articles of interest on a daily basis from Queensland newspapers placing these in folders with various subject headings. We still add to these files although the need to exhaustively cut from hardcopy papers is not as pressing as it was prior to the existence of the above mentioned digital resources.
On December 18, 2010 in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend Magazine, journalist Frank Robson contributed an intriguing feature article “Family Secrets” on the subject of the 1973 firebombing of Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub in Fortitude Valley. This firebombing resulted in the deaths of 15 patrons and staff making it one of the worst mass murders in modern Australia until the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
John Stewart and James Finch were tried and convicted for the Whiskey Au Go Go murders and sent down to Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol were they continued to proclaim their innocence. Stuart died in prison in 1979.
In the article Robson interviews Danny Stewart, nephew of John Stewart, who claims that his uncle was innocent of the crime.
I’ve added this to the substantial clippings file we have on the “Whiskey Au Go Go Fire, 1973″ as the latest instalment on this horrific event and its aftermath. The pictures in the article do not appear in Newsbank, although the text does. If you see the pictures they certainly contibute to the story and this is one of the reasons I’ve added this article to our clippings file. It also complements the other articles in the file from titles like The Sun, The Bulletin, The Toowoomba Chronicle, The Courier Mail, and many others. Most of these articles are from the 70s and 80s and are not available online.
Newspaper clippings are of great value to researchers as they bring together articles on the same subject from different periods in time resulting in a greater variety of perspectives. The John Oxley Library collection also includes newspaper cuttings books and all Queensland newspapers. You can find out more about the State Library’s newspaper collections here.
Simon Farley, Heritage Information Services.