National Film and Sound Archives offload 32,000 items

National Film and Sound Archive's Jacqui Uhlmann and Belinda Hunt have spent two years collating 32,000 items to be offloaded. Picture: Karleen Minney
National Film and Sound Archive's Jacqui Uhlmann and Belinda Hunt have spent two years collating 32,000 items to be offloaded. Picture: Karleen Minney

A collector's dream is sitting in a Mitchell warehouse waiting for a new home, as the National Film and Sound Archive prepares to offload 32,000 pieces of music and audio history.

However, collecting enthusiasts will need to clear a lot of space to be part of the action as the items, collated over years, aren't up for grabs individually. Rather they are being given away pallet by pallet.

The Archive is offloading about 32,000 collection items to free up space in its storage facilities.

About 8000 78 RPM shellac records, 12,000 Mastertouch piano rolls and 12,000 phonograph cylinders have been put up for tender.

NFSA head of collection Jacqui Uhlmann said staff had spent two years collating the items, which contain international material - much of which is originally from the United States and United Kingdom.

It is the first time the NFSA has gotten rid of such a huge number of items - but you won't need to pay a cent.

"[These are items] deemed to be outside the scope of our collecting remit because [they relate] to international material, and obviously, our focus is about Australian audio-visual heritage," Ms Uhlmann said.

"It's not a revenue-raising exercise."

Thousands of items have been acquired by the Archives over the decades, including records through the '70s and '80s, and Mastertouch piano rolls collected when the company dissolved in 2005.

The National Film and Sound Archive is passing on thousands of Master Touch piano rolls which aren't suitable for its collection. Picture: Supplied

The National Film and Sound Archive is passing on thousands of Master Touch piano rolls which aren't suitable for its collection. Picture: Supplied

"The old pianola with the roll of paper that you play - [it was] quite a popular technology from the earlier part of the last century, when people didn't have Spotify and weren't able to download whatever they wanted," Ms Uhlmann said.

The wax or phonograph cylinders produced at the turn of the 20th century are a form of record used before disc records were created.

The items spread across 77 pallets will be given away on a per-pallet basis and contain audio content ranging from music to readings or speeches.

The tender is open to any member of the public, collector or organisation who has a use for them, but individual items aren't up for grabs.

"You've got to commit yourself to quite a lot," Ms Uhlmann said.

Eager collectors will have to take a pallet blindly as there isn't an itemised list for each pallet. However Ms Uhlmann said the Archives could provide an indication of the period the items were from.

A pallet of wax cylinders up for grabs from the National Film and Sound Archive. Picture: Supplied

A pallet of wax cylinders up for grabs from the National Film and Sound Archive. Picture: Supplied

She said most of the items weren't highly valuable, but she expected experts could find something special.

"For some people there really will be some gems in there, it just depends on what they're looking for," she said.

The tender will be decided based on how the items will be used.

"[Public] access would be really important ... and how what they're proposing to do would fit within that," Ms Uhlmann said.

"The other things we're going to be looking at is the nature of the organisation, or the people who are wanting it [as well as] how many pallets they might be taking, but also - are [they] actually able to remove these things? Moving a pallet is hard."

The tender is open for responses until June 25.

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This story A collector's dream with 32,000 film and sound archive items up for grabs first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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