This project has its origins in a talk given by Tim Sherratt to the Department of Digital Fabulists in late 2015. In talking about digitised archives and access to humanities data, Dr Sherratt shared work he had done harvesting images and documents from publicly available ASIO files held in the National Archives of Australia. We were immediately intrigued and keen to work with this dataset. GovHack 2016 presented the perfect opportunity.
For this project, we took Dr Sherratt’s declassified ASIO files from the National Archives, and linked them to news articles from the National Library’s newspaper archive in Trove. We then matched ASIO surveillance subjects with people listed in the Australian Portrait Gallery dataset released for GovHack2016.
Australia's national memory institutions hold stories about Australia's history, but so do our national intelligence organisations. Historic ASIO files provide a history of Australia just as important as Cabinet papers and newspaper articles. Who was surveilled by ASIO, and why, tells us a great deal about the hopes and fears of past Australian governments and politicians.
By comparing these secret records with the official story of Australia represented in the National Portrait Gallery, we hope to provide a deeper understanding of Australia’s past, and provoke questions about its present.