National Film and Sound Archive

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National Film and Sound Archive
The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is Australia’s audiovisual archive, responsible for developing, preserving, maintaining, promoting and providing access to a national collection of audiovisual materials and related items. The collection ranges from works created in the late nineteenth century when the recorded sound and film industries were in their infancy to those made in the present day. As an institution, the Archive had a checkered history from its first incarnation in 1935 as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (within the then Commonwealth National Library) to its becoming an independent statutory authority as the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia in 2008. It is located in Canberra, the nation's capital city.

History of the organisation

Early years within the National Library
The work of the Archive can be officially dated to the establishment of the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (part of the then Commonwealth National Library) by a Cabinet decision on 11 December 1935.

Separate institution
After being part of the National Library of Australia, and its predecessors, for nearly 50 years, the National Film and Sound Archive was created as a separate Commonwealth collecting institution through an announcement in Parliament on 5 April 1984 that took immediate effect. At that time, an Advisory Committee was established to guide the institution. On 21 June 1999, the name was changed to ScreenSound Australia, the National Collection of Screen and Sound, and changed again in early 2000 to ScreenSound Australia, National Screen and Sound Archive. It reverted to its original name, National Film and Sound Archive, in December 2004.

Merger with the Australian Film Commission
Meanwhile, consequent on amendments to the Australian Film Commission Act which took effect on 1 July 2003, it ceased to be a semi-autonomous entity within the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and became an integrated branch, later a division, of the Australian Film Commission, a funding and promotional body that was itself much smaller than the NFSA. This arrangement never gained the approval or support of the NFSA’s major constituency organisations who commenced a sustained advocacy strategy, calling for the granting of separate statutory authority status for the NFSA. In 2007, the then Government announced the creation of a new agency to be called Screen Australia which would incorporate the main functions of the Film Finance Corporation, the Australian Film Commission (including the Archive), and Film Australia.

Statutory authority
However, following elections in November 2007, the new Government implemented an election promise to “demerge” the NFSA and create it as a statutory authority. The NFSA Act became law on 20 March 2008 and came into effect on 1 July 2008. This brought the Archive's governance in line with many of Australia's other major cultural institutions such as the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. The event was celebrated, on July 1, by a traditional indigenous Australian smoking ceremony and staff breakfast in the morning, and a premiere screening of a cinema adaptation of film director Rolf de Heer and digital media artist Molly Reynolds's evolving broadband website 12 Canoes followed by a cocktail reception in the evening. Inaugural Board The Archive's first Board as a Statutory Authority comprised:
  • Professor Chris Puplick AM (Chair)
  • Associate Professor Deb Verhoeven (Deputy Chair)
  • Professor Jill Matthews
  • Ms Grace Koch
  • Ms Catherine Robinson
  • Mr Andrew Pike OAM
  • Mr Philip Mortlock

The National Collection includes more than 1.3 million items. In addition to discs, films, videos, audio tapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings, the Collection includes supporting documents and artefacts, such as photographic stills, transparencies, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia and sound, video and film equipment. Notable items from the collection include:
  • The Cinesound Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection, 1929-1975: comprehensive collection of 4,000 newsreel films and documentaries representing news stories covering all major events in Australian history, sport and entertainment from 1929 to 1975. Inscribed on the Australian Memory of the World Register in 2003.
  • The Story of the Kelly Gang , 1906: directed by Charles Tait, is the first full-length narrative feature film produced anywhere in the world, and was inscribed onto the International Memory of the World Register in 2007.

Special Collections
  • National Film and Video Lending Service: containing over 16,000 titles. Ownership of the collection was transferred to the NFSA from the National Library of Australia on 1 July 2008.
  • Australian Jazz Archive
  • Quality Cinema Lending Collection: The Cinema Lending Collection is a collection of premium-quality prints, suitable for screening at prestige events. This collection includes the Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection, a collection of 50 new prints of Australian colour films that have been restored between 2000 and 2005.
  • Oral History collection

History of the building
The building to which the Archive moved in 1984 was the home of the Australian Institute of Anatomy from 1931-84. Originally it held the anatomy collection of Sir Colin MacKenzie. This collection included the heart of the celebrated Australian racehorse Phar Lap. The building is often classified as art deco, though its overall architectural style is technically "Late 20th Century Stripped Classical", the style of ancient Greece and Rome but simplified and modernised. Buildings in this style often feature a symmetrical façade, a horizontal skyline, classical columns and a central entrance. Traditional building materials such as stone and terracotta are often employed. The art deco influence is evident in the strong and consistent decorative features of native flora, fauna and Aboriginal art and motifs throughout the building. Face masks of well-known scientists of the era are featured on the foyer’s walls as a reminder of its previous incarnation as the Institute of Anatomy. Beyond the foyer is a landscaped courtyard. The original part of the building has a theatre and research centre. The theatre was the meeting place for one of Australia’s pioneering film societies in the 1930s"the Canberra Film Society. In 1999, the building was extended to provide needed space for the Archive. This new wing’s design is in keeping with the Art Deco style of the main structure with details and finishes to match the original.


Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award
The award was established by the NFSA in 1995 as a tribute to producer/director Ken G Hall. It is awarded to "individuals, groups of individuals or corporations (Australian or international) for their outstanding contribution to the cause of moving image preservation" in Australia.
  • 2010 Patricia Lovell
  • 2009 Ian Dunlop
  • 2006 Paul Cox
  • 2005 Phillip Noyce
  • 2004 Graham Shirley
  • 2003 Tom Nurse
  • 2002 Judy Adamson
  • 2001 Murray Forrest
  • 2000 Anthony Buckley
  • 1999 Joan Long
  • 1998 Not awarded
  • 1997 Kodak Australasia
  • 1996 Peter Weir
  • 1995 Alan Rydge and Rupert Murdoch

National Folk Recording Award
Since 2001, the NFSA has presented the National Folk Recording Award at the National Folk Festival "to encourage and reward excellence in Australian folk recording". The winner is selected from recordings submitted by performers at the National Folk Festival. The judging panel comprises representatives from the National Folk Festival, ABC Radio and the Archive.
  • 2010 A Voice that was Still by Chloe and Jason Roweth, with Jim McWhinnie
  • 2009 Urban Sea Shanties by Fred Smith and the Spooky Men's Chorale
  • 2008 The Next Turn by Trouble in the Kitchen
  • 2006 Diamond Wheel by Kate Fagan
  • 2005 Songs of the Wallaby Track by Dave de Hugard
  • 2003 Swapping Seasons by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
  • 2002 Bagarap Empires by Fred Smith
  • 2001 Follow the Sun by Seaman Dan

Building Activity

  • Mike Belcher
    Mike Belcher commented
    Also in the building is the ARC Cinema, part of the NFaSA. It's a working theatre regularly showing a selection of classics, Australian, cult, documentaries and Art House cinema from around the world.
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via