The state library in Melbourne needs help. There’s a small, handwritten notebook among the tens of thousands of old and new books, encyclopedias, records, contracts and files. It’s a rare document, according to the notice on the board.
It’s the diary of a gold digger in Ballarat – probably Scottish. The notebook meticulously describes events day after day between July 8, 1855 and January 1, 1856. It tells of the weather conditions, life in the mine – and getting away from it, and even a Bengal tiger who escaped in the streets of Ballarat. The library would like to buy the book from its owner due to its valuable stories of life during the gold rush. It’s estimated to be worth 100,000 Australian dollars.
I leave a small donation and think of the heritage of the Ticino immigrants who were among the first to be dazzled by Australian gold. Among the old letters and travel documents stored in attics or at the bottom of trunks are perhaps diaries waiting to be opened which can tell the stories of the people who kept them. And why not sell them if they are worth their weight in gold? They could become permanent objects on display in a Swiss museum or library.