DETAILS ABOUT RESEARCH ITEMS IN THE NFSA COLLECTION
A major theme for my research is the history and experience of urban development in Australian cities.
The National Film and Sound Archives collection offers a range of perspectives on urban change, accessible through oral histories and â??yarn spinnersâ??, musical recordings, radio, newsreel footage, 35mm negatives, and films â?? representing first hand, reported, or reflected experiences. Decisive moments in the built histories of Australian cities have triggered community unrest, loss, violence and even murder; equally celebration, spectacle and fanfare. For better or worse, these moments nevertheless contribute layers of significance that are, perhaps by necessity, no longer visible to todayâ??s urban traveller.
Three Sydney based locations were identified as research subjects. These sites have been selected for their historical significance, both as subjects of recorded history and more broadly as locations of cultural and historical resonance within Sydneyâ??s urban development. Changes to the built environment, which have seen industrial areas transformed for commercial, residential, entertainment and/or tourist uses, mean the stories and events that have contributed to these locationâ??s character and significance are largely hidden from view.
â?¢Â Â Â Pyrmont
Pyrmont epitomises Sydneyâ??s growth as a global city in so many ways. Its history is well documented, however with the exception of the Ultimo Powerstation, now the site of the Powerhouse Museum, many of its significant landmarks are no more. At Pyrmont were the sandstone mines affectionately known as Paradise, Purgatory and Hellhole from which many older Sydney buildings are constructed. Along with Ultimo, Pyrmont also once provided Sydney with power for its lights and trams and were a centre for the distribution of Australian wool, flour, milk, sugar and other foodstuffs. Indeed Sydney’s first wool store was housed there, as was the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR), and the Griffin Incinerator, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony in 1935. The Incinerator was the biggest in the Commonwealth and, when built in 1934, at the forefront of not just building technology but also contemporary architectural practice of the time. Its beauty and engineering achievement inspired 20 years of protest against its demolition until it was finally approved in 1992.
In 1995 Pyrmont Bay was the site of Australiaâ??s largest urban development, which completely transformed the topography of the environment. This development was fiercely opposed, particularly local residents who fought to maintain the areaâ??s community facilities and unique character, which reflected its special role in Sydneyâ??s growth as a whole.
Pyrmontâ??s history, including its significance and role in a rapidly changing city, is well documented. The NFSAâ??s collection includes over 70 items specific to Pyrmont, including oral histories and â??yarn spinnersâ??, photographs, newsfile footage, early film footage, and radio documentaries.Â The research would identify the availability of this material for use in a prototype.
â?¢Â Â Â The Hungry Mile
In September 2006 Hickson Rd was renamed the Hungry Mile in honour of maritime workers and their struggles during the Great Depression.Â The renaming is part of the redevelopment of East Darling Harbour precinct, a 22-hectare development which will house offices for 16,000 workers, housing for 1500 residents and 15 hectares of parkland. In this new environment the Hungry Mile will, according to Planning Minister Frank Sartor, â??become a grand boulevard of Sydneyâ?? running from Wynyard to a new headland park. A historical walk is being developed by the NSW Government in consultation with the Maritime Union of Australia, to highlight the significance of area and its rich maritime history.
The NFSA collection includes some documentation about the area, including musical recordings, MUA poems, stills from the movie The Hungry Miles, which it is anticipated would be used in the development of a Jaywalk for the area.
â?¢Â Â Victoria St, Kings Cross
Victoria St, Kings Cross is one of Sydneyâ??s most prized locations, described by the National Trust in the 1970s as the â??Montmartre of Sydneyâ??. Despite this, in the 1970â??s many of the terraces were marked for demolition after the area was rezoned, after developer Frank Theeman won approval to build a $40 million apartment project.
The story of what happened next, as developers clashed with local residents and unions, is well documented following the murder of local anti-development activist Juanita Neilson. Her murder remains one of this country’s most baffling mysteries, however the weight of evidence before a 1983 inquest jury suggested Juanita Nielsen was killed to silence the damaging campaign she was waging through her newspaper against the redevelopment of Victoria Street. The site was also that of the first Green Bans, which were in turn to play a decisive role in protecting much of Australiaâ??s built heritage.Â What is seen today on Victoria St gives little indication of its remarkable history, but nevertheless the story is richly documented in audiovisual history.
The CSAR collection includes Rocking the Foundation, a film on the history of the Builders’ Labourer’s Federation of N.S.W, newsfile footage of the Juanita Neilson case, film footage of a street party in opposition to the Victorian St development, as well as extensive material on the Green Bans and its role in the protection of Australiaâ??s built heritage. The location also provides the opportunity to engage with broader themes, including community opposition to development, and the relationship of identity to place, both of which offer rich veins of archival research.
Another potential area of interest was the availability within the NFSA of ethnographic field recordings.