Peter Carey's Laptop

Rowan Wilken

Abstract

In 2001, the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne built on its holdings of Australian literary manuscripts by acquiring all the papers, drafts and other items associated with Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel, True History of the Kelly Gang. The centrepiece of this acquisition, and the focus of this article, is Carey’s Apple Mac Classic laptop computer. The argument that is developed in this article is that Carey’s laptop is a technological artefact that operates, especially at the time of its acquisition, as an important talisman in three interrelated senses. First, it was viewed by library staff as a key means of gaining access to the ‘true history’ of Carey’s own creative drive or creative unconscious. Second, its public display alongside other textual objects (mostly books) served to reinforce a reconstructed corporate image that endeavoured to reposition the library as a vital contemporary cultural site and key player in Melbourne’s institutional gallery scene. Third, it was a crucial symbolic acquisition insofar as it spoke to certain desires within library management at that time, and which responded to similar moves at major libraries elsewhere around the world, to embrace collection digitisation as the path forward.

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