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Chair's Report

Early this year, I enjoyed the experience of opening the National Library’s digital exhibition Beauty Rich and Rare at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, in Washington D.C., along with outgoing Australian Ambassador the Hon. Joe Hockey. An immersive sound and light experience illuminating the natural beauty of Australia through the eyes of Sir Joseph Banks, Beauty Rich and Rare is the first major Australian exhibition to be presented at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

This beautiful exhibition—a collaboration between the National Library of Australia and AGB Events—was enjoyed by thousands of Australians during its debut at the Library in 2018–19. It is now on an international stage, introducing US audiences to the first Pacific voyage of the captain of the Endeavour, James Cook, the beauty of Australia’s flora and fauna and
Australian digital innovation. The Library is proud to have partnered in such a significant milestone.

The Library Council was delighted that, in 2019, the Australian Government
further demonstrated its faith in, and support for, the Library’s digital
ambitions by providing $10 million over four years to digitise more of its
nationally significant collections. At the end of the first year of funding,
the majority of the papers of General Sir John Monash, one of Australia’s
great wartime and peacetime leaders, are now available to all Australians.
Preparations are also well underway to commence digitising the papers of
former prime minister Sir Robert Menzies—a heavily used archive rich in detail
across many facets of mid-twentieth century Australian life.

This funding will deliver a significant amount of new content and greatly assist
the Library’s campaign to raise $30 million over ten years in philanthropic
funding to further unlock our superb collections. We are making good progress
on that ambition. I thank those Australians, including past Council deputy chair
Jane Hemstritch, who have so generously donated to make our goal a reality.

I offer my thanks to fellow members of Council, who have engaged deeply
with the Library’s strategic priorities and business, and have worked to ensure
value for our fellow citizens. I especially thank Professor Kent Anderson,
who resigned from Council in August 2019, having served three years.
Professor Anderson led the Library’s Fellowships Advisory Committee with
distinction, working with senior academics and creators from around the
country to select Fellows and Scholars from highly competitive fields. During
the year, Mrs Janet Hirst took up her role as Deputy Chair of Council and
Mr Julian Leeser MP, member of the Council, was appointed by the House
of Representatives for a further term. We also welcomed new members
Senator Catryna Bilyk, Mr Richard Price and Professor Don Markwell.

I also thank the Library’s Director-General, the Executive team and the entire
Library staff for their resilience and flexibility over a very difficult year. Among
many challenges, I particularly note their swift and decisive pivot to serving
even more Australians digitally while our beautiful building was closed to
the public.

The Hon. Dr Brett Mason