National Film and Sound Archive

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National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
National Film and Sound Archive logo.svg
National Film and Sound Archive.jpg
National Film and Sound Archive
Established5 April 1984 (1984-04-05)
LocationMcCoy Circuit, Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Coordinates 35°17′02″S149°07′16″E / 35.283950°S 149.121075°E / -35.283950; 149.121075
TypeAudiovisual Archive
Collection size3 million works
CEOJan Müller
ChairpersonGabrielle Trainor AO
Owner Government of Australia
Employees162 (at June 2019) [1]
Nearest parkingFree parking surrounding the building on Liversidge Street

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), known as ScreenSound Australia from 1999 to 2004, is Australia's audiovisual archive, responsible for developing, preserving, maintaining, promoting and providing access to a national collection of film, television, sound, radio, video games, new media, and related documents and artefacts. 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.


The NFSA collection first started as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (within the then Commonwealth National Library) in 1935, becoming an independent cultural organisation in 1984. On 3 October, Prime Minister Bob Hawke officially opened the NFSA's headquarters in Canberra.

History of the organisation

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, precursor to the National Library of Australia) by a Cabinet decision on 11 December 1935.

After being part of the National Library of Australia (NLA) 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. [2] 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.

In 2000, Screensound joined the PANDORA Archive, the web archiving project started by the NLA in 1996, as a collaborating partner. [3]

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.

In 2007, the Liberal 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. Following elections in November 2007, however, the new Labor Government implemented an election promise to allow the NFSA to become a statutory authority, similar to other major cultural institutions including the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. The NFSA Act became law on 20 March 2008 and came into effect on 1 July 2008, with celebrations held that day. [4]

Inaugural Board

The Archive's first Board as a statutory authority comprised: [5]

  • 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


  • Ms Gabrielle Trainor AO (Chair)
  • Mr Wayne Denning (Deputy Chair)
  • Ms Toni Cody
  • Mr Peter Rose
  • Ms Fiona Scott
  • Mr Kim Ledger
  • Ms Caroline Elliot
  • Ms Jude Donnelly
  • Mr Ewen Jones

History of the building

The National Film and Sound Archive fronts onto McCoy Circuit. National Film and Sound Archive viewed near McCoy Circuit.jpg
The National Film and Sound Archive fronts onto McCoy Circuit.

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.[ citation needed ]

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. It features a symmetrical façade, a horizontal skyline, classical columns and a central entrance. The decorative foyer features images of native flora, fauna and Aboriginal art and motifs. Face masks of well-known scientists from the late 19th century and early 20th century are featured on the foyer’s walls as a reminder of its previous incarnation as the Institute of Anatomy.[ citation needed ]

The building also features a landscaped courtyard, theatre and research centre. In 1999, the building was extended to accommodate the Archive's growth. The new wing’s design is in keeping with the Art Deco style of the main structure with details and finishes to match the original.[ citation needed ]


The NFSA collection includes more than 3 million items, encompassing sound recordings, radio, television, film, video games and new media. In addition to discs, films, videos, audio tapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings, the collection includes supporting documents and artefacts, such as personal papers and organisational records, photographs, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia, and sound, video and film equipment.[ citation needed ]

Notable holdings include:[ citation needed ]

A 2010 study compared the curatorial practices of accessioning and cataloging for NFSA collections and for YouTube with regard to access to older Australian television programs. It found the NFSA to be stronger in current affairs and older programs, and YouTube stronger in game shows, lifestyle programs, and "human interest" material (births, marriages, and deaths). YouTube cataloging was found to have fewer broken links than the NFSA collection, and YouTube metadata could be searched more intuitively. The NFSA was found to generally provide more useful reference information about production and broadcast dates. [9]

The NFSA announced plans to collect Australian-developed video games as part of its collection starting in 2019, with new titles to be added on an annual basis. [10]

Special Collections

Australian Screen Online

Australian Screen Online is an online database operated by the NFSA. It has both a promotional and educational function, providing free worldwide online access to information about Australian cinema and the television industry in Australia. [13]


Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award

The Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award was established in 1995 as a tribute to producer/director Ken G Hall. It is presented in recognition of an individual, group, or organisation, for their outstanding contribution to the art of moving image and its preservation. It is presented to candidates where there is a significant link between their work and its impact or relationship to the Australian film industry. Examples of this contribution include technical innovation, scholarship in the field, involvement with the survival of film as an art form and as a cultural experience, advocacy, sponsorship and fundraising.

National Folk Recording Award

The NFSA National Folk Recording Award was established in 2001 to encourage and reward excellence in Australian folk music recording. Award entrants are selected from recordings submitted each year to the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The judging panel comprises representatives from the National Folk Festival, ABC Radio and the Archive. [14]

  • 2013 Not a Note Wasted by Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band
  • 2012 Carried in Mind by Jeff Lang
  • 2011 Love and Sorrow by Kavisha Mazzella
  • 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
  • 2004 The Fig Tree, a musical companion to Arnold Zable's book produced by The Boite
  • 2003 Swapping Seasons by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
  • 2002 Bagarap Empires by Fred Smith [15]
  • 2001 Follow the Sun by Seaman Dan

Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage

The Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage [16] recognises the achievements of a person who has made a substantial contribution to the preservation, survival and recognition of sound heritage. It is named for Fanny Cochrane Smith, who features on the only known recording of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and language.

Orlando Short Film Award

The Orlando Short Film Award is an annual celebration of Australia’s best lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex short films. It recognises the nation’s cultural diversity and the role screen culture plays within the broader community.

Award for an Emerging Cinematographer

First presented in 2010, the NFSA Australian Cinematographers Society John Leake OAM Award for an Emerging Cinematographer is designed to enable emerging cinematographers to develop their craft, and is presented annually at the Australian Cinematographers Society Awards. The Award is named in honour of Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) co-founder and industry icon John Leake OAM (1927–2009). The judging panel comprises the Federal President of the Australian Cinematographers Society, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Film and Sound Archive, and two other executive members of the ACS.

Preservation Award

The South East Asia Pacific Audiovisual Archives Association (SEAPAVAA) NFSA Preservation Award recognises the extraordinary efforts of individuals or organisations within the South East Asia and Pacific region in preserving or promoting audiovisual archiving in the region. It is presented at the annual SEAPAVAA conference.


The following exhibitions have been developed by the NFSA:

From August 2018, the NFSA re-opened its exhibition gallery to present temporary exhibitions, including:

See also

Related Research Articles

The United States National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) is the board selecting films for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. It was established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988. The National Film Registry is meant to preserve up to 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films" each year; to be eligible, films must be at least 10 years old. Members of the Board also advise the Librarian of Congress on ongoing development and implementation of the national film preservation plan.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Australian research institute for Indigenous studies

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), established as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS) in 1964, is an independent Australian Government statutory authority. It is a collecting, publishing and research institute and is considered to be Australia's premier resource for information about the cultures and societies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Institute is a leader in ethical research and the handling of culturally sensitive material and holds in its collections many unique and irreplaceable items of cultural, historical and spiritual significance. The collection at AIATSIS has been built through over 50 years of research and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and is now a source of language and culture revitalisation, native title research and family and community history. AIATSIS is located on Acton Peninsula in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

Queensland Museum state museum of Queensland, Australia

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The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), at Federation Square, Melbourne, is Australia's national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art. During the 2015–16 financial year, 1.45 million people visited ACMI, the second-highest attendance of any gallery or museum in Australia, and the most visited moving image museum in the world. In May 2019, ACMI closed to the public to begin a $40 million redevelopment.

Film Australia was a company established by the Government of Australia to produce films about Australia. Its mission was to create an audio-visual record of Australian culture, through the commissioning, distribution and management of programs that deal with matters of national interest or illustrate and interpret aspects of Australian life.

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings. Established in 1966, members include record collectors, discographers, and audio engineers, together with librarians, curators, archivists, and researchers.

Australian Institute of Anatomy

The Australian Institute of Anatomy was a natural history museum and medical research institute that was founded in 1931 and disbanded in 1985. The Institute's heritage-listed building, located in Acton, Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia, has been occupied by the National Film and Sound Archive since October 1984. The building was added to the Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004.

The National Gallery of Australia Research Library is the pre-eminent art library in Australia, located in Canberra. The first Chief Librarian, Margaret Shaw, was appointed in 1978 and retired in 2004.

Ellen Jose Australian artist (1951-2017)

Ellen Jose was an Australian indigenous artist and photographer She was a Torres Strait Islander descendant from Murray, Darnley and Horn Islands who lived in Melbourne with husband Joseph Toscano.

John Meredith (folklorist) Australian folklorist

John Stanley Raymond Meredith OAM was an Australian pioneer folklorist from Holbrook, New South Wales whose work influenced the Australian folk music revival of the 1950s, in particular as a founding member of the Australia's first bush band The Bushwhackers. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1986 for service to Australian folklore and music, and became a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 for service to the Arts, particularly in the collection and preservation of Australian folklore.

The Sounds of Australia, formerly the National Registry of Recorded Sound, is the National Film and Sound Archive's selection of sound recordings which are deemed to have cultural, historical and aesthetic significance and relevance for Australia. It was founded in 2007.

Australian Screen Online (ASO), also known as Australian Screen or australianscreen, is an online database operated by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). It has both a promotional and educational function, providing free worldwide online access to information about Australian cinema and the television industry in Australia.

Martha Ansara is a documentary filmmaker whose films on social issues have won international prizes and been screened in Australia, the UK, Europe and North America. Ansara was one of the first women in Australia to work as a cinematographer, is a full member of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) and was inducted into the ACS Hall of Fame in 2015. Martha is a Life Member of the Australian Directors Guild and a founding member of Ozdox, the Australian Documentary Forum. She has also worked as a film lecturer and film writer and has been active in the trade union, women's and peace movements.

FOCAL International is the trade association representing stock footage companies, post-production facilities and individuals involved in the use of footage, still images and audio in all forms of media production. It represents more than 300 companies and individuals involved in media production, asset management, preservation of historical archives, film restoration and post-production.

Andrew Pike

dr. Andrew Pike, OAM is an Australian film historian, film distributor and exhibitor, and documentary producer and director. Pike formed Ronin Films, an Australian film distribution company, with his first wife, Dr Merrilyn Fitzpatrick, in 1974. With Ross Cooper, he co-authored the book, Reference Guide to Australian Films 1906–1969 and has produced and directed many documentaries since 1982. Pike has been honoured with numerous awards including a plaque on the ACT Honour Walk in Canberra City, appointed of the Order of Australia (OAM) and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canberra.

The Art of Sound is an exhibition which was developed in 2013 by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in collaboration with art galleries in Australia to explore the use of sound in the visual arts.

Shortis and Simpson are an Australian entertainment duo consisting of John Damien Shortis and Moya Simpson. They are singers, composers, political satirists and cabaret artists; producers and writers of wide-ranging performance genres. John Shortis is a satirist, singer, songwriter, composer, social historian and political commentator. Moya Simpson is a singer and actor, and choir director. She immigrated to Australia in 1978.

Michelle Potter is an Australian dance writer, critic, archivist, and curator of historical materials. Her research and writing have focused on but have not been restricted to Australian dance history. She is known internationally for the extent of her knowledge and expertise.

Archives of Traditional Music

The Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music holds over 100,000 individual audio and video recordings across over 3500 collections of field, broadcast, and commercial recordings. Its holdings are primarily focused on audiovisual recordings relating to research in the academic disciplines of ethnomusicology, folklore, anthropology, linguistics, and various area studies.

Raymond Charles Argall is best known as a cinematographer and director for both film and television. He has also worked as an editor. His multi-award-winning feature film Return Home (1990) is regarded by many critics as an Australian cinema classic. Argall served on the Board of the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) for sixteen years, holding the position of president from 2006 to 2015 and secretary from 2015 to 2017. In 2016, Argall launched a business restoring archival films through his production company Piccolo Films. In 2018 the ADG presented him with its prestigious Cecil Holmes Award.


  1. NFSA Annual report 2018-19 (Report).
  2. CA 4123: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 20 March 2014
  3. Webb, Colin (December 2000). "Because It Belongs to All of Us: National Arrangements for Digital Preservation in Australian Libraries, Australian Academic & Research Libraries". 31 (4): 154–172. doi: 10.1080/00048623.2000.10755132 . ISSN   1839-471X . Retrieved 2 May 2020. Published online: 28 Oct 2013 [Routledge]Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. Massola, James (2008) "Innovative film sets the scene for the Archive's new role", The Canberra Times , 2008-07-02, p. 7
  5. NFSA Board Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)". Memory of the World. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  7. "The Hen Convention"
  8. Patineur Grotesque
  9. McKee, Alan (2011). "YouTube versus the National Film and Sound Archive: Which Is the More Useful Resource for Historians of Australian Television?". Television & New Media . 12 (2): 154.
  10. Reilly, Luke (26 September 2019). "National Film and Sound Archive of Australia to Collect, Preserve Aussie Video Games". IGN . Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  11. "Sounds of Australia". Australian Screen Online. 11 November 1975. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  12. "The complete Sounds of Australia list". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  13. "About ASO". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  14. NFSA 2008 National Folk Recording Award Archived 2 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Minion, Lynne (24 April 2009) "Uniting folk in triumph of voices", The Canberra Times , p. 5
  16. National Film and Sound Archive: Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 35°16′59″S149°07′16″E / 35.283°S 149.121°E / -35.283; 149.121