New digital interactive exhibition coming to National Film and Sound Archive

James Coleman 20 July 2020
1930's record

A record from the 1930s made by a woman wishing her granddaughter a happy birthday is featured in the National Film and Sound Archive’s new ‘Hive’ exhibition. Photo: NFSA.

When the doors to the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) finally crack open again at the start of next month, there will be a new interactive exhibition inside.

Visitors will be able to engage in a trivia game, hear some of Australia’s historic music and speeches, and receive a presentation from artists and curators alike, all accessible via smartphones and a pair of headphones.

It’s called Hive – a digital showcase of the best of the 3-million-strong collection at the NFSA – and it will be a free and permanent fixture at the NFSA in Acton from Saturday, 1 August.

It was conceived before COVID-19 struck following feedback from visitors who enjoyed the temporary exhibitions and screenings hosted by the NFSA but wanted to hear more from behind the scenes.

NFSA Manager of Exhibitions and Education Felicity Harmey says it has been a strange time for museums in Canberra and across the country.

“We really miss the visitors and we’ve had to do a lot of program shuffling to make sure that when we do reopen, we have something great to see and experience,” Ms Harmey said.

“They [visitors] really wanted to know more about who the NFSA is and what we collect and what we do with the collection. So Hive is really dedicated to telling those stories and they come directly from the staff.”

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the ‘Storywall’, presented with SBS Creative Labs.

Featured artists from the 'Hive' exhibition

Featured artists from the ‘Hive’ exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive. Photo: NFSA.

The Storywall is a life-size projection of six NFSA experts ‘waiting’ for visitors to interact with them using their smart device. Once selected, they will tell a story about themselves and their passion for Australia’s audiovisual history, as well as showcasing some of the items from the collection.

Curator Chris Arneil will be there to present the 1993 video game Halloween Harry – one of the first eight Australian video games to make it into the archives. Then there are the platform shoes which were part of Hugo Weaving’s costume in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which won the Academy Award for Best Costume in 1995. Another curator will be showing an aluminium record that a woman had made in the 1930s to wish her granddaughter a happy birthday.

Other Hive features include highlights from the Sounds of Australia registry and a game where visitors can test their knowledge of Aussie culture.

The NFSA will provide smart devices and headphones for those who don’t have them, and the exhibition will be available in Arabic, French, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Video Preservation Specialist Richard Vorobieff will also feature on the Storywall with a VCR to talk about what makes up the bulk of the NFSA’s current work.

The NFSA was established in 1984 as a place to store and display Australia’s most notable contributions to the film, music, and media industries. These come in the form of tapes, records, phonograph cylinders, wire recordings, posters, oral histories and all manner of technologies from decades past.

Preserving it all means making it accessible in the modern age of MP3s, JPEGs, and countless other acronyms. The NFSA has an expert team of technicians on the enormous job.

COVID-19 health restrictions mean we must wait another two weeks for the NFSA to open, but they have been hosting online exhibitions starring Jimmy Barnes, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, and the original Storm Boy film.

It’s making the best of a tricky situation, and Ms Harmey says the NFSA is really looking forward to seeing people back in the building.

“We’re really excited to open, and the opening of Hive also corresponds with the opening of our August screenings and other programs. Our first program is a Bluey Pyjama Party and it’s sold out already, so we’re very excited and hoping that there’s something there for everyone.”

The NFSA and Hive will be open Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm from Saturday, 1 August.

For more information on visiting, see NFSA.

Due to COVID-19, the NFSA is not accepting cash for on-site purchases.


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