Australian archive ready for future

'Kelly Gang' footage among 1.3 million artifacts

SYDNEY — When “The Story of the Kelly Gang” was recognised by UNESCO late last year as the world’s first feature film the honour compounded angst

among archivists at Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive, where the only remaining nine minutes of original footage from the 70-minute pic are


Remnants of “Kelly Gang” shot in Melbourne 1906, nine years before D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” are among 1.3 million artifacts held by the NFSA, an organisation mired for a decade in controversy that has spawned no less than four support groups.

The Australian Society of Archivists, Australian Historical Association, Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive and the Archive Forum lobbied successfully to have the organisation’s name re-instated (after it was re-titled ScreenSound late last decade) and to have it declared a statutory authority funded by, but independent of, government.

It won the last battle in March when parliament declared the NFSA independent of the Australian Film Commission.

In July an inaugural board headed by former Archive Forum chairman Chris Pulpick was appointed and this month veteran museums manager Daryl

McIntyre was tapped CEO commencing November.

Now the real work must begin as the archive lacks storage space, must step-up its digitization of artefacts and institute a legal deposit policy meaning a copy of every film made in Oz must be archived.

According to NFSA supporters its collection is recognised as among the world’s top 20 but the corporate upheaval during an era when vital modernisation decisions were required has taken its toll.

Expanding public access is also a government priority and an obvious reason for choosing McIntyre who most recently held positions managing public access for the Museum of London and National Museum (of Oz).

McIntyre also wants to grow commercial relationships so the NFSA has additional revenue to its annual A$27 million (US$22.5 million) federal allocation.

NFSA interest groups generally support McIntyre’s appointment. Ray Edmondson from Friends of the Archive, says “we’re aware of his museums

experience, which is a good thing, he obviously has experience on public programs but he has no background in audiovisual archiving, so that’s something he’ll have to learn.”