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The Front Room


Nestled in the green gardens connecting the Australian National University (ANU) and the New Acton area, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) touts itself as “the nation’s living archive”

Visitors can access the facility either in the limited paid parking nearby, or a short walk from nearby bus stations on the ANU campus or in New Acton.

The Front Room exhibition, which is running until the 31st of May, is an example of how the NFSA goes about being a living archive.


It contains an assortment of past Australian media, giving a sample of the music, television and radio content of the 1950’s.

By far the greatest element of this set up is the radio. You can close your eyes and reminisce to past broadcasts that even generation Y will recognize, most notably the classic advertisement for Aeroplane Jelly. The presentation is wonderfully decorated as well, with the classic kitchen look being quite well done.

IMG_0827However, this does not act as the focal point of the exhibition but as one element that is agreeable in a collection that is overwhelmingly not.

Rather than allowing visitors to discover classic material and relive the heritage of Australian media, it acts as an overly decorated space where modern technology is acting discordantly to the intended theme.

The greatest example of this is the reaction of its visitors. While there, it became apparent that more people were interested in using the modern day computer than sitting on the nearby couch and appreciating the television content being shown, which is not readily available anywhere else.

In addition to this, the musical library is totally scattered – jumping from classic Australian rock to the best festival hits of 2013 on the same shelf.


Even the radio is flawed slightly, in that it plays through an external speaker and not the radio itself. This is noticeable straight away and leads to thoughts about the inner workings of the device, rather than the intended nostalgia.


The initial concept of this exhibition, as a place where people can drop in and experience classic content at their leisure, has unfortunately failed to deliver such an experience. It simply serves as a quiet place where you can remain connected to modern technology and feel just a little bit more uncomfortable about it.

By Leo Sloan

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