Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Mystique of the National Film and Sound Archive



The Mystique of the National Film and Sound Archive

By Graeme Wong
Spirit News
December 17, 2072

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.

The Archive was formally established as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (within the then Commonwealth National Library) in 1935, becoming an independent cultural organisation in 1984.

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.

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.

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.

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. It features a symmetrical fa├žade, 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.

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.