Dictionary of Sydney/Nothing…? Help the Dictionary of Sydney!

UPDATE: The City of Sydney came through and continued the Dictionary of Sydney’s funding after all. Happy endings are nice.


The Dictionary of Sydney, a fantastic site full of unique info that’s proved useful to me countless times, is under threat! The City of Sydney Council in its infinite wisdom is considering withholding funding critical to the project’s survival. Those bike lanes won’t pay for themselves, I guess.

For three years, the Dictionary has provided us with an impeccably researched and realised archive of Sydney city history, most of which is not available anywhere else, and dude, it’s free. If it goes south, the city will lose a layer of its identity forever. Sometimes heritage buildings are lost completely, without any evidence left behind *cough* Regent Theatre *cough*, but the Dictionary allows them to live on.

So what can you do? Get involved and make a donation, or lobby the City Council to make them aware of just how necessary the Dictionary of Sydney is. I’d suggest explaining it as you would to a five year old. Here’s more from the Dictionary staff:

The Dictionary of Sydney is under serious threat. Despite our long and productive relationship with the City of Sydney, and the support of Council, the City is considering withholding the 2012 -13  tranche of the five-year funding voted to the Dictionary by Council in May of 2011.

The matter may be debated at the next City Council meeting on Monday 30 July 2012.

In the current difficult economic climate, we have not managed to raise more than $30,000 in external funding and donations during 2011-12, and it will take more time for the Dictionary to be successful in attracting philanthropic funding. The $200,000 voted in principle by the Council for the Dictionary for 2012-13 is the bare minimum that will enable the project to continue, while we ramp up a further fundraising effort and shift our business model.

Staff hours were cut in half in January 2012, and operations have been continuing on the basis of skeleton staff and goodwill. Despite this, the majority of the Council’s key performance indicators have been met, and the Dictionary has continued to publish and to seek partnerships with other organisations.

If the City funding is not made available the Dictionary will close its operations in August of this year, meaning it will lose its staff, and cease preparing new material for publication. This will mean that our current projects, including the Federally-funded Cooks River project, will cease, and material currently in preparation will be mothballed.  Starting the Dictionary up again will be both difficult and expensive.

We need you to tell the Council now how important it is to keep funding the Dictionary at this critical stage in our development.

It is unreasonable of the Council to cease funding the Dictionary without prior warning and two years into a five year agreement when the Dictionary:

a) has met 80% of an extensive list of KPIs,
b) has managed within its budget;
c) is growing in content, participants, followers, status and profile;
d) is actively seeking other sources of funding and other ways of attracting revenues; and
e) when immediate cessation of funding would almost certainly destroy everything that has been built up with Council support over so many years.

Council should recognise the Dictionary’s extraordinary achievements to date and agree to continue funding at the same level for 2012/13.

The Dictionary of Sydney has been live less than 3 years and it would be a great shame to see this outstanding collaborative digital history project fold.

Please help us save this groundbreaking, internationally acclaimed digital history project. You can do this in 2 simple ways:

1. Make a donation to the Dictionary now: http://www.everydayhero.com.au/dictionaryofsydney

2. Lobby the City of Sydney Council now. A template for letters and contact emails is available here.

Remember: this issue may be debated by Council on Monday 30 July so we need your support now!

Please forward this information to interested colleagues and friends – we want the Dictionary to survive and thrive. Apologies for cross-postings; we are keen to get the word out there.

On behalf of the Board, staff and hundreds of volunteers involved in the Dictionary, we thank you in advance for your support of the project.

2 responses

  1. Thanks Michael. We have had a great response from readers and supporters, and we think the Council might be realising that there would be a downside to defunding us. We are very hopeful that our relationship with the City will continue and improve after this small glitch! But for the moment, we are keeping up the pressure. Cheers.

  2. […] Wikimedia Australia, who sent a strongly worded letter. Many tweets and posts of support on other blogs have made us feel like valued members of the online history community, and that will certainly […]

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