The work of the Archive can be officially dated to the establishment of the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (part of the then Commonwealth National Library) by a Cabinet decision on 11 December 1935.
After being part of the National Library of Australia, and its predecessors, for nearly 50 years, the National Film and Sound Archive was created as a separate Commonwealth collecting institution through an announcement in Parliament on 5 April 1984 that took immediate effect. At that time, an Advisory Committee was established to guide the institution.
On 21 June 1999, the name was changed to ScreenSound Australia, the National Collection of Screen and Sound, and changed again in early 2000 to ScreenSound Australia, National Screen and Sound Archive. It reverted to its original name, National Film and Sound Archive, in December 2004.
Meanwhile, consequent on amendments to the Australian Film Commission Act which took effect on 1 July 2003, it ceased to be a semi-autonomous entity within the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and became an integrated branch, later a division, of the Australian Film Commission, a funding and promotional body.
In 2007, the Liberal Government announced the creation of a new agency to be called Screen Australia which would incorporate the main functions of the Film Finance Corporation, the Australian Film Commission (including the Archive), and Film Australia. Following elections in November 2007, however, the new Labor Government implemented an election promise to allow the NFSA to become a statutory authority, similar to other major cultural institutions including the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. The NFSA Act became law on 20 March 2008 and came into effect on 1 July 2008, with celebrations held that day.
The Archive's first Board as a Statutory Authority comprised:Professor Chris Puplick AM (Chair)
Associate Professor Deb Verhoeven (Deputy Chair)
Professor Jill Matthews
Ms Grace Koch
Ms Catherine Robinson
Mr Andrew Pike OAM
Mr Philip Mortlock
The National Collection includes more than 1.9 million items. In addition to discs, films, videos, audio tapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings, the Collection includes supporting documents and artefacts, such as photographic stills, transparencies, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia and sound, video and film equipment.
Notable items from the collection include:The Cinesound Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection, 1929-1975: comprehensive collection of 4,000 newsreel films and documentaries representing news stories covering all major events in Australian history, sport and entertainment from 1929 to 1975. Inscribed on the Australian Memory of the World Register in 2003.
The Story of the Kelly Gang, 1906: directed by Charles Tait, is the first full-length narrative feature film produced anywhere in the world, and was inscribed onto the International Memory of the World Register in 2007.
A 2010 study compared the curatorial practices of accessioning and cataloging for NFSA collections and for YouTube with regard to access to older Australian television programs. It found the NFSA to be stronger in current affairs and older programs, and YouTube stronger in game shows, lifestyle programs, and "human interest" material (births, marriages, and deaths). YouTube cataloging was found to have fewer broken links than the NFSA collection, and YouTube metadata could be searched more intuitively. The NFSA was found to generally provide more useful reference information about production and broadcast dates.National Film and Video Lending Service: containing over 16,000 titles. Ownership of the collection was transferred to the NFSA from the National Library of Australia on 1 July 2008.
Australian Jazz Archive
Quality Cinema Lending Collection: The Cinema Lending Collection is a collection of premium-quality prints, suitable for screening at prestige events. This collection includes the Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection (2000-2005), and the Deluxe/Kodak Collection (2005–present). The goal of these two collections is to preserve and make available a selection of significant Australian feature films produced between the 1950s-90s. This current project will be completed in June 2011, and by this time 75 titles will have been preserved.
Oral History Collection
The National Registry of Recorded Sound is part of the Sounds of Australia program to promote and celebrate the nation's sound heritage. Each year, the Australian public nominates new sounds to be added with final selections determined by a panel of industry experts.
Film Australia Collection: contains a diverse range of approximately 5,000 titles of quality Australian documentary and educational programs, spanning a century of the nation’s film production.
The building to which the Archive moved in 1984 was the home of the Australian Institute of Anatomy from 1931-84. Originally it held the anatomy collection of Sir Colin MacKenzie. This collection included the heart of the celebrated Australian racehorse Phar Lap.
The building is often classified as art deco, though its overall architectural style is technically "Late 20th Century Stripped Classical", the style of ancient Greece and Rome but simplified and modernised. It features a symmetrical façade, a horizontal skyline, classical columns and a central entrance. The decorative foyer features images of native flora, fauna and Aboriginal art and motifs. Face masks of well-known scientists from the late 19th century and early 20th century are featured on the foyer’s walls as a reminder of its previous incarnation as the Institute of Anatomy.
The building also features a landscaped courtyard, theatre and research centre. In 1999, the building was extended to accommodate the Archive's growth. The new wing’s design is in keeping with the Art Deco style of the main structure with details and finishes to match the original.
The Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award was established in 1995 as a tribute to producer/director Ken G Hall. It is presented in recognition of an individual, group, or organisation, for their outstanding contribution to the art of moving image and its preservation. It is presented to candidates where there is a significant link between their work and its impact or relationship to the Australian film industry. Examples of this contribution include technical innovation, scholarship in the field, involvement with the survival of film as an art form and as a cultural experience, advocacy, sponsorship and fundraising.2012 Susanne Chauvel Carlsson
2011 David Hannay
2010 Patricia Lovell
2009 Ian Dunlop
2006 Paul Cox
2005 Phillip Noyce
2004 Graham Shirley
2003 Tom Nurse
2002 Judy Adamson
2001 Murray Forrest
2000 Anthony Buckley
1999 Joan Long
1998 Not awarded
1997 Kodak Australasia
1996 Peter Weir
1995 Alan Rydge and Rupert Murdoch
The NFSA National Folk Recording Award was established in 2001 to encourage and reward excellence in Australian folk music recording. Award entrants are selected from recordings submitted each year to the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The judging panel comprises representatives from the National Folk Festival, ABC Radio and the Archive.2013 Not a Note Wasted by Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band
2012 Carried in Mind by Jeff Lang
2011 Love and Sorrow by Kavisha Mazzella
2010 A Voice that was Still by Chloe and Jason Roweth, with Jim McWhinnie
2009 Urban Sea Shanties by Fred Smith and the Spooky Men's Chorale
2008 The Next Turn by Trouble in the Kitchen
2006 Diamond Wheel by Kate Fagan
2005 Songs of the Wallaby Track by Dave de Hugard
2003 Swapping Seasons by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
2002 Bagarap Empires by Fred Smith
2001 Follow the Sun by Seaman Dan
The Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage recognises the achievements of a person who has made a substantial contribution to the preservation, survival and recognition of sound heritage. It is named for Fanny Cochrane Smith, who features on the only known recording of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and language.2012 Dr Ros Bandt
2011 Bill Armstrong
2010 Dr Karl Neuenfeldt
The Orlando Short Film Award is an annual celebration of Australia’s best lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex short films. It recognises the nation’s cultural diversity and the role screen culture plays within the broader community.2012 Craig Boreham Writer and director of Drowning
2011 Grant Scicluna Writer and director of Neon Skin
First presented in 2010, the Award is designed to enable emerging cinematographers to develop their craft, and is presented annually at the Australian Cinematographers Society Awards. The Award is named in honour of Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) co-founder and industry icon John Leake OAM ACS (1927-2009). The judging panel will comprise the Federal President of the Australian Cinematographers Society, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Film and Sound Archive, and two other executive members of the ACS.2013 Dale Bremner
2012 Jimmy Ennett
2011 Edward Goldner
2010 Kirsty Stark
The award recognises the extraordinary efforts of individuals or organisations within the South East Asia and Pacific region in preserving or promoting audiovisual archiving in the region. It is presented at the annual SEAPAVAA conference.2012 Kae Ishihara
The following exhibitions have been developed or displays by the NFSA:The Art of Sound in collaboration with regional art galleries