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National Dictionaries in the age of Wikipedia

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is a spectacularly successful and long-lived project. Even though Its biographies attract many thousands of visitors each day, readership of bios of the same person are much higher on Wikipedia.
by

kent fitch

on 28 July 2016

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Transcript of National Dictionaries in the age of Wikipedia

Seekamp ... turned his vitriolic pen upon the Irish-born actress Lola Montez, accusing her of immorality. They took to each other with whips in the main street of Ballarat, and accused each other of assault and libel, creating a public sensation. The court cases were dismissed, but public sympathy went to Lola, and the fiery editor lost much of his popularity.

In October 1856 the Seekamps sold their newspaper and left Ballarat ... He died of 'natural causes accelerated by intemperance' ...

...Carboni best characterized Henry Seekamp, writing that 'his energy never abated, though the whole legion of Victorian red-tape wanted to dry his inkstand'.
In 1856 Seekamp wrote a review in the Ballarat Times of Lola Montez and her erotic Spider Dance and in a notorious incident Montez chased him with a whip. Shortly after Clara and Henry Seekamp moved to Queensland. He died at the Clermont gold diggings in Queensland on 19 July 1864.

Later in life Clara commented on the importance of her husband: "If Peter Lalor was the sword of the movement, my husband was the pen".
Anne Beggs Sunter
Wikipedia
ADB
Views
ADB "Top 20"
Henry Parkes
Edmund Barton
Ned Kelly
James Cook
Caroline Chisholm
Peter Lalor
Arthur Phillip
Mary Reibey
Banjo Paterson
Alfred Deakin
Mary Mackillop
Lachlan Macquarie
Matthew Flinders
Bennelong
John Quick
David Unaipon
Pemulwuy
Vida Jane Goldstein
Francis Greenway
Douglas Mawson
Henry Parkes
Edmund Barton
Ned Kelly
James Cook
Caroline Chisholm
Peter Lalor
Arthur Phillip
Mary Reibey
Banjo Paterson
Alfred Deakin
Mary Mackillop
Lachlan Macquarie
Matthew Flinders
Bennelong
John Quick
David Unaipon
Pemulwuy
Vida Jane Goldstein
Francis Greenway
Douglas Mawson
Henry Parkes
Edmund Barton
Ned Kelly
James Cook
Caroline Chisholm
Peter Lalor
Arthur Phillip
Mary Reibey
Banjo Paterson
Alfred Deakin
Mary Mackillop
Lachlan Macquarie
Matthew Flinders
Bennelong
John Quick
David Unaipon
Pemulwuy
Vida Jane Goldstein
Francis Greenway
Douglas Mawson
Henry Parkes
Edmund Barton
Ned Kelly
James Cook
Caroline Chisholm
Peter Lalor
Arthur Phillip
Mary Reibey
Banjo Paterson
Alfred Deakin
Mary Mackillop
Lachlan Macquarie
Matthew Flinders
Bennelong
John Quick
David Unaipon
Pemulwuy
Vida Jane Goldstein
Francis Greenway
Douglas Mawson
Wikpipedia, same bios
Views
Errol Flynn
Wikipedia
ADB

The entries are the end product of the research of individual authors and can only be altered if there is an error of fact. We are aware that some of the scholarship in the earliest published entries are now outdated and hope to soon acquire funding to rewrite or revise those entries.
Can I add extra information to an entry?
http://adb.anu.edu.au/faqs
Norman Selfe, engineer, 1839 - 1911
..in 1903 he largely designed a cantilever harbour bridge from Dawes Point to McMahon's Point; the plans were accepted but not proceeded with owing to a change of government...

Selfe died of heart failure at Normanhurst, the suburb named after him, on 15 October 1911 and was buried in the Gore Hill cemetery.
After the outcome of the competition had become mired in controversy, in 1902 Selfe won a second competition outright, with a design for a steel cantilever bridge stretching from Dawes Point to McMahons Point. The selection board were unanimous, commenting that "The structural lines are correct and in true proportion, and ... the outline is graceful".[31]

Construction of Selfe's version of the Sydney harbour bridge never started due to an economic slowdown and a change of government at the 1904 state election. Much to Selfe's outrage, the Department of Public Works kept his calculations and drawings, and also copied and printed them. Eventually in 1907, the department contacted Selfe and asked him to collect his drawings, but refused to return the calculations. Selfe was never given the £1,100 prize, nor was he paid for his subsequent work which he estimated to be worth more than £20,000. [32]

... Selfe died suddenly on 15 October 1911. His death certificate states the cause of death as "heart failure brought on by exertion". [11] His daughter Norma offered some context to a journalist in 1957. She said:

"On the day of his death he climbed trees in the church grounds to lop branches, as the gardener was too nervous to climb so high. That night he died in his sleep." [82]

Norma reported that her father had been sanguine to the end, playful with his nephews and learning to play the oboe. However, other reports suggest that Selfe was concealing a bitter sense of disappointment at the end of his life, most particularly over the Harbour Bridge affair. His obituary in the journal "Building" concluded: ...
ADB
S. Murray-Smith
This Wikipedia article is substantially built upon the essay "Selfe, Norman" in the Dictionary of Sydney written by Catherine Freyne, 2009 and licensed under CC BY-SA.
A debate on the contemporary role of national dictionary projects
Bringing the nation back in?
A case for increasing audience & relevance
Kent Fitch, Project Computing Pty Ltd
True Biographies of Nations?
Exploring the Cultural Journeys of Dictionaries of National Biography
Canberra 30 June - 2 July 2016

Florence Violet McKenzie, engineer, 1890 - 1982
Michael Nelmes

ADB
Wikipedia
Wikidata has recorded the ADB Ids of 12,654 ADB biographies.
Wikidata's query interface supports matching ADB's birthplace with Wikidata's geo information to map birthplaces
Thanks to Liam Wyatt for this example.
Why do you
write?
Orwell
1. Sheer egoism

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm

3. Historical impulse

4. Political purpose
"Why I Write"
Full transcript