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 2019–20 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.

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

November 2019 update

The NFSA remains open throughout our conservation works, with scaffolding now in place on the McCoy Circuit side of the building.

From 30 October until 8 November, entry to the visitor car park will be via McCoy Circuit. Also from 30 October, the pedestrian walkway will be reduced to one metre wide.

During the works period, including when a crane is on site and in operation, there may be temporary road and driveway closures and traffic diversions. 

Film screenings, special events, exhibitions and the café continue to operate as usual. Check our Events program.

April 2019 update

On commencing the project, and in line with best practice, our contractor carried out hazardous material sampling. They found Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) in the ‘Masons Putty’ between sandstone façade blocks. This material is consistent with the building techniques of the era in which our building was constructed.

We immediately carried out independent testing and background air monitoring which showed that there was no airborne ACM and that the environment around the site was safe for staff and visitors.

We have notified Comcare and ACT Worksafe and contracted a licensed asbestos removalist, who will begin preparations for ACM removal from the South Façade on 9 April.

They will erect an enclosed safe area and remove the putty in a controlled environment. The removal process will include clearance air monitoring and a clearance certificate will be issued as each stage of ACM removal works is completed.

We can then proceed with the stonework maintenance of the South Façade which is scheduled to be completed by the end of August 2019.



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