National Archives puts classic Aussie motels in the spotlight

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Reception this way: motels – a sentimental journey with Tim Ross opens at National Archives of Australia this Friday, 27 May 2022.

National Archives has partnered with Tim Ross, comedian and design nerd, to take visitors on a nostalgic trip back to a time when families piled into the family car, and embarked on long road trips in the sweltering summer heat. From oversized roadside attractions to the moment of check-in, Reception this way has you covered.

Arriving in the 1950s and booming in the 1960s and 1970s, the roadside motel became an integral part of the Australian holiday experience. Motels were stylish and sophisticated, and revolutionised the Australian road trip for families and business travellers. 

With their convenient car parking, mid-century architectural styles and a generous offering of designer mod cons, who could resist booking a motel for their summer getaway? And, of course, there were the swimming pools, chance celebrity encounters, sun and surf, breakfast hatches, twin packs of biscuits and a radio in every room!

Drawn from the national archival collection, the photographs and promotional film footage featured in Reception this way will revive memories of your past holiday experiences, and perhaps motivate you to hit the road again with your family.

Incoming Director-General of National Archives, Simon Froude said, 'Curator Catriona Donnelly has brought together a fascinating collection of photographs and footage that recall a time when Australians flocked to new and stylish motels with all the mid-century mod cons'.

'More than that, though, Reception this way reminds us of Australian invention and entrepreneurship, and our place in the international tourism market. And I’d like to think some people might take this chance to plan a road trip to Canberra, stay in a motel or two along the way, before they experience the exhibition – and any number of the other Cultural Icons in the capital.'

'We are very pleased to have Tim Ross taking this nostalgic journey with us', says Mr Froude. 'His passion for Australian mid-century architecture and exploration of the national archival collection was the inspiration behind the development of Reception this way'.

'The records at the National Archives are richer and more diverse than many people would give them credit for. It’s a real treasure trove that deserves to be better known', says Ross.

'I’m really pleased that my earlier research and partnership with National Archives planted this seed that has blossomed into a really great exhibition. To be part of that journey has been fun.'

'The result is this pictorial love letter to a somewhat bygone era, capturing the glamour and convenience of the roadside motels, from the east coast to the west, during a time when Aussie families found the time to hit road and take a break.'

'For a design nerd, these photographs are a real treat. Plenty of great examples of kitschy and quirky designs that sprouted out of this particular point in time, as motel architecture and furnishings shifted from American-inspired design to more local flavours and consumer demands.'

Reception this way: motels – a sentimental journey with Tim Ross is on display at National Archives of Australia in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle from 27 May to 4 September 2022. Admission is free.

To celebrate the opening weekend, Tim Ross and musician Kit Warhurst will reprise their acclaimed MOTEL live show for Canberra audiences on 27 May. Tickets on sale now.

A host of other public programs, including guided tours, talks and events, will also be on offer for the life of the exhibition. More information about the exhibition and programs is available at

This exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

Available for interview:

Catriona Donnelly, exhibition curator
Tim Ross, comedian and design nerd

Images and AV available on request. 

Contact information

National Archives of Australia Media Team
Phone: 0417 247 157

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