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About us

Our purpose

In accordance with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Act 2008 (the NFSA Act), our reason for being is to collect, preserve and share Australia’s national audiovisual collection and to make it available to audiences worldwide for enjoyment, learning, insight and creativity.

Our vision

The NFSA’s vision is to be Australia’s ‘living’ archive – relevant, engaging and accessible to the world. We envision the NFSA to be smart, connected and open in order to have maximum impact and relevance in society. Our vision is supported by a firm belief that the future of audiovisual archives is digital.

Our values

We care about what we do.

We are sincere in our intentions and actions.

We strive for excellence through continual improvement and innovation.

We work together to achieve results.

Our collection

The NFSA is the custodian of the national audiovisual collection. The collection represents the cultural diversity and breadth of experience of all Australians. Recorded sound and moving image are perhaps the most vivid forms of expression known to humanity. These technologies capture a ‘living’ record of people, places, and events – a record of who we are and were, and of who we want to be. We believe that the collection represents the most significant and engaging place for encounters with our memories, stories, creativity and imagination.

The collection of over 3.3 million items includes moving image and sound production from its earliest days to the present. Drama, actuality and documentary, creative arts, social and scientific history, comedy, video games, experimental and unique amateur audiovisual records are all represented. The collection is constantly evolving; it ranges from the analogue era to the digital age and includes the latest digital files produced by today’s media creators and professionals. A large part of the collection is also made up of documentation and artefacts, such as private papers and memorabilia, publicity, costumes, posters, stills, scripts and oral history interviews with a range of people from the creative industries.

Audiovisual recording formats are often physically fragile and quickly become obsolete as technology changes. Their preservation is a costly and highly specialised field of heritage protection, and our techniques and approaches evolve along with the development of the media and entertainment industries. In a converged digital environment, collections are not preserved once and for all; they are being preserved through an ongoing process of format-shifting and lossless data migration.

Our environment

As Australian galleries, libraries, archives and museums grapple with the challenges of adapting to the digital age, the NFSA must be at the forefront of a shift towards the digital, ‘always on’ archive. We must lead the sector in how to collect, preserve and share Australia’s audiovisual material in the formats and ways in which it is being created today. At the same time, we are the stewards for a vast analogue collection, covering almost every format of audiovisual creation over the past 100 years.

Our view of culture is that of continuity. We form close bonds with the creators of our audiovisual heritage, and we share the collection, so its stories form an ongoing part of the evolution of our culture. Working in an inclusive, collaborative way with creators, users, communities and partners, the NFSA ensures that the stories in the collection are shared as widely and as deeply as possible.

Our key cooperative relationships are with our responsible minister, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts and his office, and with the Office for the Arts within our portfolio department, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. These relationships furnish us with advice and guidance in relation to the governance of the NFSA and support us in meeting the expectations of the public.

We also cooperate and collaborate with many of our fellow cultural institutions including the National Museum of Australia (NMA), the National Archives of Australia (NAA), the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). We share information, best‑practice advice and new techniques, technologies and standards, and collaborate on projects in order to provide rich and unique cultural experiences to Australian audiences. We cooperate with the Australian National University (ANU) about the management of our site adjacent to its Acton campus, and with the Australian War Memorial in the storage of high-risk nitrate film at our facility in Mitchell.

Additionally, we recognise that creativity and cultural heritage go hand-in-hand, and we work directly with creative industry practitioners and peak bodies to support production projects, explore shared heritage interests and understand industry perspectives.

In planning for the future, we recognise several challenges and opportunities that affect our environment and our work.

Deadline 2025 and digitisation

The NFSA has an extensive analogue collection across a variety of formats including celluloid film negatives and prints; sound recordings on magnetic tape, acetate and vinyl disc; and radio and television broadcast on various magnetic tape formats. As analogue collection material ages, it is increasingly difficult and expensive to access due to tape deterioration and a practical inability to maintain obsolete playback systems. The technical knowledge and skills needed to access ageing analogue content are also becoming rare.

In 2015 we released Deadline 2025: Collections at Risk, highlighting the fact that much of Australia’s audiovisual heritage will be lost forever if not digitised by 2025. Deadline 2025 focused on the challenge of magnetic tape, which is deteriorating at a faster rate than many other formats held in the NFSA collection.

During 2019–20 we continued to implement our Digitisation Strategy 2018–2025 that covers the whole of our analogue audiovisual collection. We prioritise the material most at risk – including material that is culturally significant or in public demand. We also ensure that our staff continue to have expertise in analogue audiovisual formats into the future, as well as the most up‑to-date digital skills, to support preservation of and access to heritage collections.

With the announcement of additional funding for collection digitisation from 2020–21 we will be able to significantly increase our rates of digitisation.

Leading the GLAM sector in audiovisual heritage

As Australia’s only national audiovisual archive, the NFSA is uniquely placed to be a leader in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector in the collection, preservation, curation and sharing of audiovisual heritage.

This year we continued to work towards the establishment of the NFSA National Centre for Excellence in Audiovisual Heritage to ensure the long-term preservation of the NFSA’s audiovisual collection, to support all audiovisual heritage collection holders and to make sure that people engage with, learn from and use Australia’s audiovisual heritage in a digital format.

Through the National Centre for Excellence, we will work with the GLAM sector to share skills, knowledge and equipment to safeguard Australia’s national cultural heritage. We need to ensure that we are taking a collaborative approach, partnering with other institutions, creators, industry and the tertiary sector to reduce duplication and build our impact and output.

COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 virus reached Australia in late January 2020, with an Emergency Response Plan being activated by the Australian Government in late February. Throughout March, federal, state and territory governments introduced a range of restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, with the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic on 11 March. The pandemic and the related restrictions have affected every part of our business.

From 18 March, we closed our Acton building to the public and ceased all venue hires, educational and public programs, cancelling advance bookings. Exhibitions planned for April were postponed, and this was later extended to all temporary exhibitions for the remainder of 2020. From Monday 30 March, we asked all staff to work from home where possible. A small number of staff performing essential ICT, facilities and collection digitisation tasks continued to work onsite with scheduled shifts and precautions in place to allow for appropriate hygiene standards and distancing. Several staff were also redeployed to Services Australia to assist with the COVID-19 response.

In April the Government provided us with additional funding of $1.215 million to address the anticipated impact of COVID-19 on the NFSA’s business. This funding was integral to our operations during this uncertain time.

Redefining our physical presence

As the NFSA transforms from an analogue archive into a digital archive, adapting to the changing nature of our creators and audiences, our physical presence must also change. Our current headquarters are no longer fit for purpose. We need to increase our national profile and connections with creative industries and other national collecting institutions. We must also make sure that our physical presence in Sydney and Melbourne facilitates stakeholder and audience engagement. A key priority is to pursue the construction of a new facility for the NFSA and establish our presence in Canberra as a centre of innovation, with strong connections to the creative industry.

Content regulation

Our core functions involving the collection and related material must be undertaken in compliance with content regulation (covering copyright, technological protection measures and classification). One of our vital functions is to share the collection with audiences while working within the existing regulatory frameworks, and acknowledging third party owners of a significant percentage of the collection. Recent progress in consideration of copyright access reform is a welcome development which reflects our commitment to efficient and equitable access to content from the national collection.

Our strategic priorities

The NFSA has set five strategic priorities to implement to ensure that we remain relevant and continue to evolve along with the creators and users of Australia’s audiovisual heritage.

Our strategic priorities will help us deliver against our purpose, achieve our vision and respond to the challenges of our current environment.

Priority 1: Digitise the national audiovisual collection
Outcome: By 2025 we will digitise over 40,000 audiovisual collection items every year.

Priority 2: Establish the National Centre for Excellence in Audiovisual Heritage
Outcome: By 2025 we will be recognised in the Australian GLAM sector as the National Centre for Excellence in Audiovisual Heritage.

Priority 3: Build our national profile
Outcome: By 2025 we will be recognised as Australia’s national audiovisual archive, a leader in our field, a source of vibrant, relevant and exciting engagement and the first point of call for audiovisual content.

Priority 4: Collect, preserve and share multimedia and new media
Outcome: By 2025 we will be the national leader in collecting, preserving and sharing multimedia and new media content.

Priority 5: Redefine our physical presence
Outcome: By 2025 we will have a strong physical presence which is fit for purpose, targeted, future-proof and nationwide.