Trove's origins can be seen in the development of earlier services such as the Australian Bibliographic Network. It was originally known as the Single Business Discovery Service, a project that was launched in August 2008. The intention was to create a single point of entry for the public to the various online discovery services developed by the library between 1997 and 2008-2009 including Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts, Picture Australia, Libraries Australia, Music Australia, Australia Dancing, PANDORA search service, ARROW Discovery Service and the Australian Newspapers Beta service.
The key features of the service were designed to create a faceted search system specifically for Australian content. Tight integration with the provider databases has allowed "Find and Get" functions (e.g. viewing digitally, borrowing, buying, copying). Important extra features include the provision of a "check copyright" tool and persistent identifiers (which enables stable URLs).
The scope of the project is to help "you find and use resources relating to Australia" and therefore the content is Australian-focused. Much of the material may be difficult to retrieve with other search tools as it is part of the deep web, including records held in collection databases, or in projects such as Picture Australia, Music Australia, the Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts, Australia Dancing, Australian Research Online and the PANDORA web archive. Trove includes content from many libraries, museums, archives and other organisations.
The site's content is split into "zones" designating different forms of content which can be searched all together, or separately.
Books: allows searching of the collective catalogues of institutions findable in Libraries Australia using the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANDB).
People: allows searching of biographical information and other resources about associated people and organisations, from resources including the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Journals: searching of academic periodicals.
Music, sound and videos: allows searching of digitised historic sheet music and audio recordings. Replacing the previous "Music Australia" website. Also includes searchable transcripts from many Radio National programs.
Newspapers: allows text-searching of digitised historic newspapers. Replacing the previous "Australian Newspapers" website.
Pictures: Including digitised photographs, drawings, posters, postcards etc. Considerable numbers of images on Flickr with the appropriate licensing are donated as well. Replacing the previous "Pictures Australia" website.
Websites: the primary search portal of the PANDORA web-archiving service, which itself includes the "Australian Government Web Archive".
Government Gazettes: allows searching of official publications written for the purpose of notifying the public of government business.
A final "zone" called Lists allows logged-in users of Trove to make their own public compilations of items found in Trove searches.
There is also a facility to join the Trove community and make contributions to the resources such as tags, comments and corrections.
The book zone provides access to books, audio books, theses, conference proceedings and pamphlets listed in Australia's National Bibliographic Database (ANBD), which is a union catalogue of items held in Australian libraries and a national bibliographic database of resources including Australian online publications. Bibliographic records from the ANBD are also uploaded into the WorldCat global union catalogue. The results can be filtered by format if searching for braille, audio books, theses or conference proceedings and also by decade and language of publication. A filter for Australian content is also provided.
Front cover of The Dawn Issue 1, 15 May 1888. The first feminist magazine in Australia.
Trove provides text-searchable access to over 700 historic Australian newspapers from each State and Territory. By 2014, over 13.5 million digitised newspaper pages had been made available through Trove as part of the Australian Newspaper Plan (ANPlan), a "collaborative program to collect and preserve every newspaper published in Australia, guaranteeing public access" to these important historical records.
On 25 July 2008 the "Australian Newspapers Beta" service was released to the public as a standalone website and a year later became a fully integrated part of the newly launched Trove. The service contains millions of articles from 1803 onwards, with more content being added regularly. The website was the public face of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Project, a coordination of major libraries in Australia to convert historic newspapers to text-searchable digital files. The Australian Newspapers website allowed users to search the database of digitised newspapers from 1803 to 1954 which are now in the public domain.
The newspapers (frequently microfiche or other photographic facsimiles) were scanned and the text from the articles has been captured by optical character recognition (OCR) to facilitate easy searching, but it contains many OCR errors, often due to poor quality facsimiles. Since August 2008 the system has incorporated crowdsourced text-correction as a major feature, allowing the public to change the searchable text. Many users have contributed tens of thousands of corrected lines, and some have contributed millions. This collaborative participation allows users to give back to the service and over time will improve the database's searchability. The text-correcting community and other Trove users have been referred to as "Trovites".
The National Library of Australia combined eight different online discovery tools that had been developed over a period of twelve years into a new single discovery interface that was released as a prototype in May 2009 for public comment before launching in November 2009 as Trove. It is continually updated to expand its reach. With the notable exception of the newspaper "zone", none of the material that appears in Trove search results is hosted by Trove itself. Instead, it indexes the content of its content partners' collection metadata and displays the aggregated information in a relevance-ranked search result.
Trove provides a free, public Application Programming Interface (API). This allows developers to search across the records for books, images, maps, video, archives, music, sound, journal articles, newspaper articles and lists and to retrieve the associated metadata using XML and JSON encoding. The full text of digitised newspaper articles is also available.
Several citation styles are automatically produced by the software, giving a stable URL to the edition, page or article-level for any newspaper. Wikipedia was closely integrated from the beginning of the project, making Trove the first GLAM website in the world to integrate the Wikipedia API into its product.
Digital humanities researcher and Trove manager Tim Sherratt noted that in relation to the Trove API "delivery of cultural heritage resources in a machine-readable form, whether through a custom API or as Linked Open Data, provides more than just improved access or possibilities for aggregation. It opens those resources to transformation. It empowers us to move beyond ‘discovery’ as a mode of interaction to analyse, extract, visualise and play."
The site has been described as "a model for collaborative digitization projects and serves to inform cultural heritage institutions building both large and small digital collections".
^Rajapatirana, Bemal; Missingham, Roxanne (February 2005). "The Australian National Bibliographic Database and the Functional Requirements for the Bibliographic Database (FRBR)". The Australian Library Journal. 54 (1): 31–42. doi:10.1080/00049670.2005.10721711.
^"OCLC Agreement". Libraries Australia. National Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014.