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2019 at the NFSA

NFSA acquisition highlights for 2019

What did we collect in 2019?
 Adam Blackshaw

The NFSA collection now includes over three million items. Here is a small taste of what we acquired in 2019. Highlights include Hollywood star Anna May Wong in Australia in 1939, a rare 1980s Italian-Australian telemovie starring Nicole Kidman and the first videogames to be selected for archival preservation.

WARNING: this article may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


This year, at the opening of Game Masters: The Exhibition, we announced that the NFSA would start collecting Australian video games for archival preservation, along with related storyboards, artwork, soundtracks and publicity materials. The initial list of eight games selected for preservation includes Hollow Knight (Team Cherry, 2017):

Hollow Knight: Beneath and Beyond trailer, 2017. Developer: Team Cherry.

The games selected range across all platforms – from cassette tape to mobile devices and virtual reality headsets. The rest of the initial list includes: The Hobbit (Beam Software, 1982), Halloween Harry (Interactive Binary Illusions/Sub Zero Software, 1985/1993)​​​​, Shadowrun (Beam Software, 1993), LA Noire (Team Bondi, 2011), Submerged (Uppercut Games, 2015), Florence (Mountains, 2018) and Espire 1: VR Operative (Digital Lode, 2019).


In 2019, thanks to the efforts of NFSA Lost Films Ambassador Anthony Buckley AM, we acquired the Keith McDonald Rex Theatre Collection of over 800 films spanning the early 1920s to the 1960s. It includes Australian silent features, Hollywood musicals, European short films and over 400 Australian newsreels, documentaries and actuality films. As can be seen in the following clip, our staff assessed the collection onsite at a farm at Teddywaddy in regional Victoria, before relocating it to our Canberra headquarters:

NFSA staff assess the Keith McDonald Rex Theatre Collection for transport from Teddywaddy, Victoria, 2019.

Among the many newsreels collected this year, a highlight was this segment on Chinese-American Hollywood film star Anna May Wong and her visit to Australia. In 1939 she toured the Tivoli vaudeville circuit, spending three months here. Please note the start of this clip is silent:

Anna May Wong in Australia, 1939. Courtesy: Cinesound Movietone Productions. Note: the beginning of this clip is silent. NFSA title: 259339

Jack Charles in a car with Archie Roach
Kutcha's Carpool Koorioke with guest Archie Roach, 2019. NFSA title: 1591587


We boosted our holdings of web series with over 18 new titles including Kutcha’s Carpool Koorioke (John Harvey, 2019, pictured right), Over and Out (Connor Van Vuuren, 2019) and Sarah’s Channel (Nick Coyle, 2019).

Among our newly acquired feature films were Animals (Sophie Hyde, 2019), Ride Like a Girl (Rachel Griffiths, 2019) and Judy and Punch (Mirrah Foulkes, 2019).

Following our successful exhibition, Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures, we received a very special donation of home movies from Heath Ledger’s mother, Sally Bell. These private recordings on tape and Super 8 film include Heath’s 1992 stage performance as Peter Pan at Guildford Grammar School and a Rock Eisteddfod recording from 1995.


Dramatic scene with a man pointing aggressively at an indigenous woman.
Deborah Mailman in Total Control, 2019. Photo: John Platt

We received all episodes of Total Control (Rachel Perkins, 2019, pictured right) starring Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths. We also collected series four of Black Comedy (set to premiere on ABC TV in 2020) and series two of On Country Kitchen, a cooking program hosted by Derek Nannup and Mark 'The Black' Olive, who travel Australia creating dishes with a uniquely Indigenous flavour.

Contemporary scripted series on free-to-air and streaming platforms that we acquired during the year include Bloom, Bluey (main image, above), The Cry, The Family Law, The Letdown, Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Nowhere Boys: Battle for Negative Space and Rosehaven.

A rare acquisition was a one-inch video of the English version of Italian telemovie An Australian in Rome (Un'Australiana a Roma, 1987), starring Nicole Kidman:

Nicole Kidman in Un'Australiana a Roma (An Australian in Rome), 1987. NFSA title: 1584940

We also collected digital masters of recent comedy, lifestyle and reality programs including episodes of MasterChef Australia, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, V8 Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and Have You Been Paying Attention?


Among the sound-related items we collected was this unusual recording on aluminium disc made at a public voice record booth in London in 1935. In it, Marie Rowbottom sends a birthday message to her three-year-old granddaughter Melda:

Birthday message recorded on metal disc from Marie Rowbottom to her granddaughter, Melda Ottignonon, 1935. NFSA title: 1593524

We digitised the recording and sent the sound file to Melda, who was able to hear her grandmother's message 84 years after it was first sent! The flip side of the disc advertises Harrods Department store.

Courtney Barnett poster showing an illustration of a planet with a house on top.
Courtney Barnett tour poster by Ashley Ronning, 2018. NFSA title: 1572314

Other major donations we received included: 150 master tapes from Australian rock band Hoodoo Gurus; audio masters and video footage from singer-songwriter, musician and producer Shane Howard, covering his time with the band Goanna and his solo career; over 2,000 CDs of popular music from ABC Radio Hobart Music Library; and a collection of 120 audio recordings of ABC Radio Hobart's Live at the Centre from 2017.

Pictured right is one of nine music and festival posters collected from Melbourne-based graphic designer Ashley Ronning. It advertises singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett's Luxembourg dates on her 2018 European concert tour.

We also collected over 400 vinyl discs from Zenith Records in Victoria, Australia’s only dedicated record-pressing facility.

Documents and Artefacts

Three dresses from the film The Dressmaker on exhibition display.
Costumes from The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition on display at the NFSA, 2019.

We've featured highlights from our collecting this year in the stills gallery below. These include children’s storytelling glass slides of Peter Pan (c1919) and cinema glass slides advertising stores in Guildford, Sydney (c1930); a photo of Annette Kellerman with Esther Williams in costume as her on the set of Million Dollar Mermaid (1952); a large scrapbook of the Fox Hoyts Radio Club (1931–33); a theatre program for Charlie Girl from 1971, featuring a 22-year-old John Farnham; and Lee Whitmore’s original drawings and animation artwork for the short film Sohrab and Rustum (2018).

In addition, we acquired a selection of costumes and props from The Dressmaker (2015) which featured in The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition at the NFSA (pictured above right).

An unusual item we received was a fan letter from a former Alcatraz prisoner congratulating actor Val Lehman and the women of Prisoner (1979–86) on the 30th anniversary of the program and thanking them for the impact of the program on reforming perceptions of prison and prison life.

Oral History

Among many Oral History interviews we recorded this year was one with stills photographer Elise Lockwood, who talked about working behind-the-scenes on the set of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994).

Musician and composer Warren Ellis talks with John Olsen about his approach to writing film scores with Nick Cave, in particular for The Proposition (John Hillcoat, Australia-UK, 2005):

Warren Ellis oral history (excerpt), 2019. NFSA title: 1587598

We also recorded an interview with Seb Chan, Chief Experience Officer at ACMI, who tells Rod Freedman about the current challenges facing archives and museums in preserving born-digtial recordings:

Seb Chan oral history (excerpt), 2019. NFSA title: 1585925


This year, with the support of the Australian Radio Network, Macquarie Media and Southern Cross, we collected over 10,000 hours of contemporary radio broadcasts from metropolitan and regional stations. We also started collecting broadcasts from Vision Australia Radio, the community radio network for people with a print disability.

This included extensive coverage of news and current affairs as well as sporting broadcasts like the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the soccer A-League Grand Final, AFL Women’s and the AFL ‘Dreamtime at the G’ match. Another highlight was Ashleigh Barty finishing the year as the women's world number one tennis player; she is interviewed here after winning the tennis French Open, her first Grand Slam singles title:

Ash Barty interviewed after winning the French Open, 2019. Courtesy: Macquarie Media. NFSA Acq: 135802

We acquired material from the archives of Sydney radio station 2KY (now Sky Sports Radio), including radio transcription discs from the 1930s to the 1960s featuring rare radio serials and advertisements.

We also collected the debut program of Starsat (1979), broadcast via satellite to Australian radio stations from Los Angeles in what is believed to be a world’s first use of the technology at the time. The recording features an interview with Doc Neeson of rock band The Angels, who were touring North America at the time.


Main image at top: Bluey, 2018. Courtesy: Ludo Studio. NFSA title: 1583965