What we collected in 2020

COMPILED BY MEL BONDFIELD

This year has been a difficult one in Australia and around the world, but despite the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, the NFSA still managed to acquire a remarkable and diverse array of items for the collection. 

Below you'll find just a small sample of what we've collected this year. Highlights include an emotional eyewitness account of the Victorian bushfires, exclusive interviews on the impact of COVID-19, plus new web series and virtual reality experiences.

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

Radio

The devastating bushfires that swept through the country at the start of 2020 made headlines around the world. The following audio, broadcast on New Year's morning 2020, is an eyewitness account from Radio 3AW in Melbourne of how events unfolded in the small coastal town of Mallacoota:

The above recording was archived as part of our off-air radio preservation program alongside over 17,000 hours of contemporary radio broadcasts collected this year from metropolitan and regional stations across Australia.

Other radio highlights for 2020 include two episodes from the 1939 radio series The Grand Parade (Macquarie Broadcasting); rare transcription discs from the 1940s to the 1960s, including previously unheld recordings of Australia's Amateur Hour (1940 to 1958) and Smoky Dawson; retrospective advertisements and jingles from stations broadcast through the Capital Radio Network; and a collection of radio recordings featuring the late Sydney radio personality Phil Hunter.

Oral Histories

Highlights from the NFSA Oral History program in 2020 include interviews with Dave Mason of The Reels (listen to an excerpt), comedian Fiona O'Loughlin and actor Simon Burke. Burke is one of Australia’s most beloved stars of film, TV and theatre. In the following clip, Simon shares his 'sliding-doors' moment and how, at the age of 13, he almost missed out on landing his breakthrough lead role in Fred Schepisi’s The Devil’s Playground (1976). Rhonda Schepisi, referred to in this clip, was the casting director on the film:

Capturing the COVID-19 Experience

To ensure that future generations can comprehend the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFSA is collecting a wide range of materials covering different aspects of COVID-19 and its social and cultural impact.

In addition to preserving TV and radio coverage, we're doing special interviews via Zoom, acquiring content produced during isolation and collaborating with filmmaker Jamie van Leeuwen's Australia Locked Down project.

You can watch an excerpt from our interview with actor Nadine Garner. The following clip is an excerpt from an interview with actor and writer Steven Oliver. He reflects on the impact of COVID-19, including its effect on how we view and spend our time:

Film

In a collaboration with The Library of Congress this year, the NFSA helped restore the 1925 silent comedy short Moonlight and Noses, directed by Stan Laurel and starring Australian comic Clyde Cook, James Finlayson, Tyler Brooke and an 18-year-old Fay Wray, of King Kong (1933) fame. The film was screened at the 2020 Pordenone Silent Film Festival:

Another highlight was the heartfelt and inspiring short film Sparkles (Rush Films, 2020), about a 30-something-year-old Down Syndrome woman who runs away from home, befriends a drag queen and sets her sights on the big city:

Virtual Reality and Web Series

This clip is a brief excerpt from the virtual reality experience Virtual Whadjuk (2019) by Periscope Pictures. Virtual Whadjuk is a time machine that transports users back to a time before European settlement in Australia to show how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities lived. The platform reveals landscapes as they were 200 years ago using new mapping technologies, 3D animation and botanical data:

Love In Lockdown, 2020

This year offered an outstanding variety of web series. Also created and acquired during the COVID-19 experience is Love in Lockdown (Gristmill Productions, 2020) a romantic comedy about a couple who fall in love online during a series of ukelele lessons, starring Lucy Durack and Eddie Perfect.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, animated series Beached Az (Robot Army Productions) returned to explore pertinent environmental issues with humour. 

Love, Guns and Level Ups (Fury Fingers Films, 2020) is another web series about finding love online in an unconventional setting. Sparks fly when Bree and Elliot meet in a video game, but challenges arise when the two try to take their relationship offline in this sci-fi, action-adventure, romantic comedy:

Documents and Artefacts

The gallery below features still images of some of our recent documents and artefacts acquisitions. They include costumes and props from True History of the Kelly Gang (Justin Kurzel, 2019) and Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998), a Blinky Bill costume, vintage radios, a tea towel featuring Dame Joan Sutherland and more.

Click on the images to expand.

Television

Producer, presenter and journalist Jeffrey James donated a collection of television and radio material from his earliest days in the industry, including U-matic videotapes of 1970s Saturday morning ATN-7 children’s television programs Funshine (1976–77) and Music ‘N Other Stuff (1977), for which the NFSA previously held no episodes. In this 1977 interview excerpt from Funshine, James asks the reigning 'Queen of Pop' Marcia Hines about her career, her move to Australia, what it was like for her to return to the USA to perform, and her experiences with Russian audiences: 

Other television highlights include a collection of 46 TV advertising compilations from John Bevins Pty Ltd, including ads for Ansett, Peugeot, Johnson & Johnson, RAMS Home Loans, Quit for Life, Country Link, NSW Lotteries, P&O Cruises and more.

From Seven Network, we received a batch of digitised files from their BTQ7 and HSV7 collection. We also acquired Cloudy River (Unko Productions, 2020), a series about a pansexual artist in an open relationship, and unearthed a pilot for an unseen black-and-white drama titled Solomon (1973), featuring an impressive cast including John Ewart, Tina Bursill, David Gulpilil and Sean Scully in the title role.

Gaming

T-shirt featuring an image from the video game Halloween Harry

T-shirt featuring Halloween Harry. NFSA title: 1624389

In 2020 we continued our video games preservation initiative, focusing on representing the initial eight Australian games selected for the program – Hollow Knight (Team Cherry, 2017), 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).

For these games we've added to our collection through source materials like design documentation and prototypes, published material, memorabilia and promotional merchandise, walkthroughs, soundtracks and interviews.

This included material from the personal collection of John Passfield, creator of Halloween Harry and Flight of the Amazon Queen and co-creator of Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.

Halloween Harry also featured in our new on-site interactive space Hive.

Sound

In February 2020, the NFSA received the third annual donation of ABC Hobart's Live At The Centre recordings. They included 84 live recordings of Tasmanian (and some mainland) performers that were broadcast by ABC Hobart throughout 2019. This annual donation ensures the preservation of the best of Tasmania's contemporary musicians and performers.

The Live at the Centre recording below features Mama Alto – jazz singer, cabaret artiste and 'gender transcendent diva' – singing the Roberta Flack classic 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face':

More recorded sound highlights from 2020 include the Antony Balmain Collection of 61 recordings featuring raw interviews and broadcasts produced by Balmain for 2SER, ABC and SBS. They are historically significant recordings for the people of Timor-Leste and include interviews with Xanana Gusmão, Bishop Belo, José Ramos-Horta and various Fretilin fighters just before the Dili Massacre. 

We also brought into the collection nine CDs from Australian-born singer-songwriter Martine Locke.

Main image: still frame from Virtual Whadjuk: A Cultural Experience in Virtual Reality (2020). Courtesy Periscope Pictures. NFSA title 1601537