Nation Film & Sound Archive - ANU Collaborative Doctoral Program PhD Scholarship

Image: Bidgee, via Wikimedia Commons.

From archival collection to contemporary exhibition

For the first time in many years, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is developing an original exhibition drawn from its vast collection of over 2.8 million items that it collects and preserves for future generations. This ambitious multi-year endeavour, which will culminate in a large touring exhibition in 2022, involves many aspects of the organisation, from Curatorial to Collection Stewardship, from Engagement to Communications.

The Scholarship

A prestigious joint Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship will be offered by the NFSA in partnership with the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies (CHMS) in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

Possible topics

The sucessful candidate will be embedded with the Exhibitions team at the NFSA and use the development of the major exhibition over the next three years to carry out research into how an archival collection can be shared with renewed relevance for audiences in a contemporary market. The candidate will be involved in the project not just as a key curatorial voice but as a significant contributor to the value chain, with a real opportunity to shape its outcomes. Doctoral research outputs will include project-based outcomes including exhibition text, exhibition catalogue essays and associated symposiums, for example. The NFSA is open to interest from all Schools and Centres within the Research School of Humanities and the Arts and candidates with an interdisciplinary approach will be considered favourably.

Indigenous Collection Analysis

The National Film and Sound Archive holds a unique First Peoples collection, encompassing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander items as well as elements from neighbouring countries (for example Papua New Guinea and New Zealand).
This collection has not been examined in depth in some years and would benefit from an analysis.

Possible outcomes:

  • Identification of pathways how to engage Communities and connect Communities with the NFSA First Peoples Collection.
  • Catalogue – Indigenous Collections : First Peoples Australia and International Collection
  • Collection gaps analysis to develop the NFSA First Peoples Collection to better represent the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia
  • Investigate procedures and protocols relating to the management of Culturally Restricted Digital Collections
  • Identify Language Groups connected to collection items
  • Significance Assessment of the Collection

Social impact question

Within the humanities there has been considerable research into the intrinsic and instrumental value of arts and culture, including the consideration of the role, purpose and social impact of archives. In recent years consideration has been given to whether qualitative analysis of impacts, driven through government funding programs and arts policy requirements, is adequate to assess, report and grow the social impact of memory institutions such as the NFSA. An added complexity is the rise of the use of technology to facilitate access to collection material and curated collections, with page views and searches used to quantify success and impact. Models such as Simon Tanner's Balanced Value Impact Model have created ways in which to assess the success of digitised and distributed humanities content, and provide a structured approach to considering social impacts within strategic frameworks and business priorities.

Could the NFSA be used as a test case/model for best practice in planning for, measuring and assessing the social impact and value of screen and sound collection material? Do we have the right balance in our strategic plan to deliver core functions of archival collecting and to deliver significant social impact to the Australian public? Where does the NFSA sit within the broader digital and entertainment ecosystem in Australia (and the world) and what does that mean for developing strategic direction? What role does the NFSA plan in the broader cultural economy of Australia, and are their areas of social impact (health, wellbeing, education, employment) that are areas of priority?

The question of social impact of the NFSA could also be closely tied to particular collection areas or themes. For instance, the social impact of the accessibility and use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection material could be considered through case studies.

Decolonizing audiovisual archives

How to actively revision audiovisual archives such as NFSA to balance out the colonial over/undertones of history with 21st century desire for a 'democratic' collection.

To be considered applicants must also apply for entry into the ANU Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Research PhD programme by 15 April 2021.


For enquiries contact Dr Alexandra Dellios ( and Dr Dianne Heriot (

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Updated:  5 January 2021/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications