Historical evidence indicates that the Molonglo River Flats, Black Mountain and its spur, now known as the Acton Peninsula, were areas that the Aboriginal people of the region used as meeting places.

In 1930 the construction of the Australian Institute of Anatomy was completed on this site. This was one of the last major projects of the Federal Capital Commission and it was built to house the anatomy collection of Professor Sir Colin MacKenzie. The site was formally gazetted in 1924 as the National Museum of Australian Zoology, and architectural plans show that zoological gardens were intended for the grounds.

The NFSA moved into the building when the collection moved from the National Library of Australia and the National Archives of Australia. The building was formally opened by Prime Minister Bob Hawke on 3 October 1984. Later, Mr Hawke’s then wife, Mrs Hazel Hawke, officially opened the remodelled courtyard gardens on 30 September 1991.



In June 2004, the NFSA site at Acton (the former Institute of Anatomy building) was entered into the Commonwealth heritage list, comprising natural and cultural heritage places owned or controlled by the Australian Government.

The NFSA has a heritage management plan for the long-term protection and conservation of the site that fulfils the requirements of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. 

Download: NFSA Building Heritage Tour Brochure


We’re Having a Facelift

Our heritage-listed building is nearly 90 years old and, like all of us, it needs to be cared for.

That’s why in 2019 we are carrying out vital conservation and restoration works.  

We will be having our heritage sandstone facade cleaned, repaired and repointed; repairing and painting windows; replacing glass bricks; returning cloisters to their former glory and so much more.

We take the responsibility to care for our home very seriously and these essential works have been meticulously planned to keep the building beautiful and strong, for everyone to enjoy now and into the future.

The project has three stages, with completion scheduled for December 2019:

Stage 1, South Façade: January – May

Stage 2, Front Façade: April – September

Stage 3, North Façade: August – December

The NFSA will remain open throughout the conservation works, with our film screenings, special events, exhibitions and café operating as usual. Check out our Events program.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the presence of scaffolding or building noise when visiting the NFSA.