It started during a school trip

BY EMILY GEORGE

For Belinda Hunt, Documents and Artefacts Curator, part of the fun of working with a collection as vast as the NFSA’s is handling the actual items. Documents and artefacts at the NFSA are rare and unique and include: scripts, posters, lobby cards, stills, personal papers, props and original costumes from film and television productions and even Australia’s first Academy Award.

Belinda’s interest in the NFSA was sparked by a visit on a school excursion – a trip many will remember from their primary school excursions to Canberra. She returned as a high school student: ‘I did work experience at the NFSA for two weeks during Year 11, in 1987, and loved it. I will always remember looking at the stills we hold for The Moth of Moonbi (Charles Chauvel, 1926). It was the title that caught my attention and I wondered what the film could be about!’

Arthur Tauchert (Jack Bronson) drinking with Charles O'Mara (Ferris), Doris Ashwin (Dell Ferris) is standing beside the table holding a bottle in a film still from The Moth of Moonbi (1926, Charles Chauvel).

Still from The Moth of Moonbi (1926, Charles Chauvel) the film Belinda Hunt worked on at the NFSA during work experience. NFSA title: 349149

Belinda worked with Chauvel’s films as part of this work experience, creating copies of stills and labeling transparencies. This allowed her to handle original archival materials. It was these first engagements with the collection that made her want to work for the NFSA.

Always interested in film, television and music and somewhat of an Anglophile, Belinda completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, with subjects such as Art, History and English.

Prior to working at the NFSA Belinda worked at the Department of Employment, Education and Training as well as Legal Aid in Canberra.

‘But the NFSA was my long-term goal. I had tried for several jobs here in the early 1990s but it wasn’t until 1996 (with some work experience under my belt) that I was successful.’

While her early work experiences were not directly involved with curatorial or archival practice, Belinda’s 19 years at the NFSA have seen her working consistently with collection items. She has had various roles in different areas within the organisation, including in Collection Management, Access and the Scholars and Artists in Residence Program. In Governance, she engaged with the NFSA Board and worked on compiling annual reports and coordinating key performance indicators.

Belinda is now the Documents and Artefacts curator, working with the collection and on special projects such as last year’s Picnic at Hanging Rock: 40 years a Mystery online exhibition, which she curated alongside Stephen Groenewegen.

These are a few of my favourite things

One of Belinda’s favourite items in the collection: a still image from Broken Melody (Ken G Hall, 1938). NFSA title: 575022

When asked about their favourite item in the collection, curators often take a long pause because of the many items they have come into contact with over the years.

For Belinda Hunt, there are two favourites. The first is a still image from the 1938 Australian film Broken Melody.

‘I love the ‘film noir’ look of this still and the dramatic poses of the two leads. It looks like something shot in New York but the backdrop is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

‘Lloyd Hughes (John Ainsworth) is a promising musician, unemployed and penniless in the depths of the Depression.

He saves an impoverished Diana Du Cane (Ann Brady) from jumping into the harbour. After many trials both are reunited on the stage as successful performers in a major opera production.’

Prop of Picnic at Hanging Rock 'Missing' poster on noticeboard

Prop 'Missing’ poster on noticeboard from Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Click to enlarge. NFSA title: 481095

Her other favourite is the ‘Missing’ noticeboard, featured towards the end of Picnic at Hanging Rock (NFSA title number: 481095), which featured in the online exhibition.

‘It is an interesting and melancholic item that ends the film with unanswered questions and prolongs the mystery beyond the cinema screen. It is one of many props, documents, posters, costumes as well as outtakes from the film that were featured online.

‘The curator’s role is to select items that not only create a cohesive presentation of the exhibition’s purpose but also engages with its audience making it more accessible to the wider community. One of the main purposes of Picnic at Hanging Rock: 40 Years of Mystery was not only to digitise and preserve important artefacts from the film, but also make these items accessible to a wider audience. Both Anne Louise Lambert (actress) and Pat Lovell (producer) donated costumes from the film, and a few items such as a UK film poster were found at an auction house.’