The The National Library's Trove and <i>The Canberra Times</i> are in the process of digitising 40 more years of the newspaper and through it, Canberra's history.

The The National Library's Trove and The Canberra Times are in the process of digitising 40 more years of the newspaper and through it, Canberra's history.

For this morning's reader, the daily miracle of this morning's $2.80 Canberra Times is a jolly useful and entertaining thing. But for researchers (historians, say, and genealogists) this same edition may one day - for remember a newspaper is ''the first draft of history'' - be priceless.

The digitisation of past editions of The Canberra Times, (making them available online) a godsend for researchers, has suddenly got a dramatic wriggle-on in this, Canberra's centenary year. The Canberra Times has been serving the national city, and through it the nation, since 1926.

Now Trove, the National Library of Australia's online database, in collaboration with The Canberra Times, is in the process of adding 40 more years of the newspaper to what's hitherto been available.

The wondrous, indispensable Trove has for some time given us The Canberra Times from 1926 to 1954. But now here come the editions of the years 1955 to 1995.

This will mean, the National Library's Cathy Pilgrim, director of Community Outreach) explained on Friday, that by the end of this year, and with the reaching of 1995, The Canberra Times will be the most comprehensively digitised of all the newspapers that Trove has so far begun to embrace.

And speaking of embraces, the Australian embrace of Trove is enthusiastic. Ms Pilgrim reports that in May alone there were more than 2 million visitors to the 9 million newspaper pages (or 90 million articles) available free of charge from Trove's almost 400 newspaper titles. Of those 2 million visits in May, 312,000 were made from mobile devices, illustrating the way in which Trove has put information at our finger tips.

''Newspapers are the eyes and ears of communities and an essential information resource'', Ms Pilgrim thinks. ''Through Trove, people will be able to search and browse across every page and article of The Canberra Times from 1926 to 1995. With public support we can enable a worldwide audience to share Canberra's more recent history and its integral connection with national and international affairs: from the introduction of decimal currency to the dismissal of the Whitlam government, from Menzies to the moon landing, from Mabo to the Beatles. By providing online access to the nation's stories through The Canberra Times we can create a lasting legacy for all Australians.''

The financial support Ms Pilgrim mentions - for while Trove's contents are free for the world to fossick among, the digitising of newspapers costs money - can come in several forms. For example some individuals and organisations have ''bought a year'' for $15,000 (Questacon has ''bought'' 1988, the Friends of the National Library have ''bought'' 1975. And all smaller donations, over $2, are tax deductible.

Family historians are, probably, the most likely Australians to sing Trove's praises. Ms Pilgrim offers this testimony from Annie Talve of NSW who sings ''Thanks to the NLA's nationwide newspaper digitisation project [my great-great-grandmother] Emma Steer - born in 1838, who boarded the ship The Persian in 1852, who married Alfred Whitlock in 1861, had nine children, who died in 1880, and was buried somewhere in Bendigo - has suddenly come to life.''

On this day, an article with the eyecatching and promising headline ''Long wait for Prince Charles on dope result'' turns out to be only a story about one of his race horses being tested for performance-enhancing substances. That day's paper cost that day's reader 60¢ but 100 years hence a family researcher may find, perhaps in that edition's columns of births, deaths and marriages, items of pure gold.

For all details about how you can help make the contents of the 1955-1995 Canberra Times available to highly grateful posterity go to development@nla.gov.au.