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Future of NFSA

Barbara Alysen, ‘Files can’t wait: the future of the National Film and Sound Archive’, The Conversation, 31 July 2014

It goes without saying these are difficult times for the country’s museums and archives. In recent months, the National Library, War Memorial, Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and others, have all flagged belt-tightening and cutbacks to services or staff.

But the response to cuts at the nation’s leading repository for film, radio and television, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) may be unique. This month, the NFSA has been conducting a fence-mending exercise with its stakeholders after a restructure, detailed three months ago, drew an angry reaction.

Who has a stake in the NFSA?

In April, the NFSA management announced cuts to its programs, after a six-month review of its operations. Some 28 staff – 13% of the Archive’s total workforce – were put off.

Members of the Archive’s constituency, including leading film and program makers, critics and researchers, demanded an explanation, citing the human cost and the lack of prior consultation.

None of this should have come as a surprise to the Archive’s executive.

People who work in the film, video and audio industries draw on the Archive for their productions. But they also rely on it to ensure the long-term preservation of their work. Audio-visual materials date with each technical advance and are thus more difficult and expensive to maintain than printed works. So program makers generally have a deeper relationship with the NFSA than writers, say, have with the National Library.

Moreover, the NFSA’s stakeholders have been fundamental to its history. In the early 1980s they lobbied to have the audio and moving image collection made independent of its then-home, the National Library. They were active again when the Archive was absorbed into the Australian Film Commission in the early 2000s. The NFSA has been a statutory authority since 2008.

To read more, visit The Conversation here.