7 things you didn’t know about the National Film and Sound Archive

Posted 9 Jan 2019

Story by Visit Canberra

1. Open for business

The NFSA has recently changed their opening hours to daily. Visitors to Canberra now have more options than ever to visit the NFSA, hosting late Friday nights complete with DJs and drinks until 9pm, and open on the weekend 12-5pm with the Heath Ledger exhibition, film screenings and their café all available to explore throughout the weekend.

2. They preserve more than 2.8 million objects, from the oldest…

There are 2.8 million items preserved in the NFSA collection, going back to the oldest surviving recording film (a man doing a comedy routine on rollerskates in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park) and oldest surviving recorded sound (a novelty song featuring a man doing chicken impersonations) in Australia, both from 1896.

3. Through to the newest!

Being an archive and all, you expect to see some of the oldest items relevant to Australian film and sound history at the NFSA. But did you know that the Archive also keeps many iconic objects such as Muriel’s wedding dress, Priscilla’s Oscar-winning frocks, Australia’s first Oscar (1943) and much more! Never content, the NFSA keeps collecting Australia’s newest audiovisual productions; they already have, for example, season 6 of Wentworth!

Be inspired by searching their website and catalogue online, and request access to a number of collection items on site for when you visit.

4. The building was going to be a zoo

The beautiful art deco building in Acton became home to the NFSA in October 1984, but its history dates back to 1924, when the site was gazetted to become the National Museum of Australian Zoology. The building was to be the grand entrance to the zoo, and the animals would be housed in what is now the Australian National University. Plans changed and in 1928, it became the Australian Institute of Anatomy.

Construction was completed in 1930. The building features blue, yellow and green stylised designs inspired by Indigenous Australian bark paintings, displayed on tiled panels between the windows. There are goannas, ferns and waratahs carved into the capitals of the columns at the entrance, as well as frilled neck lizards framed in stylised boomerangs surrounding the front door. The Gallery and Arc cinema walls feature plaster castings of the platypus, kookaburra, tree kangaroo, koala and wombat, painted in bronze, while the foyer features a large stained-glass skylight featuring a platypus.

5. A picture perfect cuppa

After you’re done exploring their Heath Ledger exhibition, or before your movie at Arc cinema, pop into the National Film and Sound Archive’s new cafe, run by local family business Biginelli’s Espresso. Dine in their beautiful courtyard and enjoy their amazing coffee.

6. It’s haunted!

During its time as the Australian Institute of Anatomy, the building housed human remains, including the skull of Ned Kelly. It was also Canberra’s first morgue. It is frequently listed as one of Canberra’s (and Australia’s) most haunted buildings, and the NFSA runs monthly ghost tours where you can learn more about this spectral history. Better still, in 2018 you can celebrate Halloween at the NFSA’s Horrorfest on Friday 2 November.

7. Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures

The NFSA has re-opened its exhibition gallery with Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures, dedicated to the great Australian actor. You can see The Joker and Nurse costumes from The Dark Knight, as well as Heath’s handwritten character research diary for his Oscar-winning rendition of Batman’s archenemy, and other costumes and props from his films. From childhood mementos and two of his motorbikes, to his never-before-seen work as a photographer and director, the exhibition is free so you can see these rare items as many times as you want! It runs until 10 February 2019.

To find out more about the National Film and Sound Archive visit their website.

 

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