Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

NFSA’s 50 things to cheer you up

Beth Taylor, NFSA’s 50 things to cheer you up, National Film and Sound Archive, July 2020

WARNING: this article contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

PUT A SMILE ON YOUR DIAL

As winter sets in, and the world faces uncertain times, we’ve chosen 50 items from our collection to gladden your heart, pique your curiosity and get your foot tapping:

  1. Pelicans had never been trained for a film before 1976’s Storm Boy. Learn more about the challenges of working with Sandwich, Carpenter and Dum Dum.
  2. Con Colleano – the world-famous ‘Wizard of the Wire’ – shows off death-defying feats in this home movie footage.
  3. Immerse yourself in London in 1904. Spoiler: they all wore hats!
  4. wombat playing in the snow (true story).
  5. David Gulpilil teaches the Devil Dance:

An excerpt from the documentary Walkabout to Hollywood (Bill Leimbach, 1982) featuring David Gulpilil. Courtesy: Bill Leimbach. NFSA title: 548282. Click image to watch.

  1. With concerts and music festivals on hold, experience the 1980s excitement of INXS and Jimmy Barnes.
  2. This basket of puppies will make you smile.
  3. Peak Straylia: children dressed up as joeys climbing out of a giant kangaroo on wheels.
  4. Did you know the iconic thong dress from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) was almost made from pieces of vegemite toast instead?!
  5. Can you make hats out of hair? Yes, you can. Take a look:


The Mike Walsh Show, Episode 1157 (excerpt), broadcast 23 September 1981. Courtesy: Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions. NFSA title: 1244459.

  1. Production designer Catherine Martin shares the secrets to creating Strictly Ballroom’s ‘diabolical beauty’.
  2. Catch a ride around Melbourne on this tram from 1910.
  3. Marvel at the ingenuity of this DIY home cinema from the 1940s.
  4. Jack Thompson impresses with his tai chi moves.
  5. Listen to the incredible songs of the East Australian Humpback Whale.
  6. Sing along with John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ through the ages. Spoiler alert: includes bagpipes.
  7. A close shave from this 3 year-old barber will have you on the edge of your seat!


Victor Willey Jnr works in his father’s barbershop at Brighton-Le-Sands, Sydney (newsreel). Courtesy: Cinesound Movietone Productions. NFSA title: 129214.

  1. Improbable numerological ridiculousness with Dame Edna Everage.
  2. Do you believe in UFOs? This woman didn’t until she saw one in Sydney.
  3. Skippy’s epic drum solo.
  4. Fascinating flapper dance moves from 1926.
  5. The Central Australian Women’s Choir will lift your spirits.
  6. ‘That’s not a knife…’ The cheeky story behind Crocodile Dundee’s iconic knife.
  7. Much more than garbage bags – revel in the fabulous finalists in the Glad Bag Fashion Show chosen from 5,000 entries.
  8. Joan Crawford. Enough said.

Joan Crawford in a still from Dancing Lady (USA, Robert Z Leonard, 1933). From the Taussig film stills collection. NFSA title: 748083.

  1. Annette Kellerman’s stunning underwater ballet.
  2. Early in Australian TV history JO’K leads overseas stars Dusty Springfield, Gene Pitney, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, and Gerry & The Pacemakers in a toe-tapping rendition of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.
  3. Learn about ugg boots’ Aussie surfie roots.
  4. Do eels make good pets? This lady certainly thinks so.
  5. Check out this intimate living room performance by Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach who were partners in life and music.
  6. Disclaimer: watching the mass production of Iced VoVo and Sao biscuits might make you hungry:

‘Ingenious Machines Produce Biscuits By The Million’ from Australian Diary 46 (1951). From the Film Australia collection. NFSA title: 67216.

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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