Media release: Wednesday, 7 March 2012
The National Archives will display some of Australia's most valuable records this weekend in its Federation Gallery which is open for viewing on special occasions. The documents include the original Constitution Act passed by the British Parliament and the Royal Commission of Assent signed by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900, the nation's founding documents.
Last month the National Archives introduced new viewing arrangements in its Federation Gallery, a change inspired by the latest preservation research techniques which can measure the impact of light on documents.
Tests have shown that parts of the documents may risk fading if they remain permanently on show, so the gallery is now open for special public viewing days throughout the year, and for group and school bookings. When the documents are not on display, they are safely stored under heavy blackout covers in ideal environmental conditions.
'We are committed to ensuring the future survival of this material as well as to encouraging and facilitating Australians' access to the documents. We are pleased that we can meet both these important roles through our changes to the Federation Gallery opening times,' Director-General of the National Archives David Fricker said.
'We have recently taken advantage of a new method of material testing known as 'micro-fading'. This research has allowed us to assess any potential preservation challenges that may face Australia's foundation documents in the longer term – and to review more suitable options for display. The Archives is committed to giving Australians the opportunity to understand and appreciate their history through viewing these.
We need to consider how best to balance the documents' future conservation needs with the public's right to access,' said Mr Fricker.
'Importantly, the gallery will continue to be available for booked school visits, ensuring that these documents play a role in the education and understanding of Australia's constitution and democracy. It will also be open for public viewing on special occasions, including during our upcoming Enlighten Festival events this weekend, in the evening on 9 and 10 March.'
The documents will be on view from 6.30pm to 10pm on Friday 9 March and Saturday 10 March.
Director-General David Fricker is available for interviews.