See my separate and main tip on the National Archives.
The National Archives is custodian of all significant government/public service documents in Australia. No documents are of more significance than those which created The Commonwealth of Australia (to give it its full name) – affectionately known as the country’s birth certificates.
The Federation Gallery contains just seven items which together are probably the most significant public documents in Australia. These documents are:
1. Commonwealth of Australia Act (UK) 1990
Passed by the British Parliament in 1990 to set out the blueprint for the new nation of Australia. The Constitution (which established the legal and political structures that continue to shape the lives of all Australians) is included as section nine of the Act
2. Royal Commission of Assent
The actual document signed by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900 which brought the Bill for the Commonwealth of Australia into law thus creating the Commonwealth of Australia and enacting the Australian Constitution
3. Letters Patent constituting the office of Governor-General 29 October 1900 (UK)
Signed by Queen Victoria on 29 October 1900 establishing the office of the Governor-General
4. Royal Proclamation of Inauguration Day, 17 September 1900 (UK)
This proclamation, signed by Queen Victoria on 17 September 1900, set the date on which the Commonwealth of Australia was to be inaugurated – 1 January 1901. The delay between Royal Assent on 9 July 1900 and 1 January 1901 was to give West Australia time to decide if it wished to be part of the federation
5. Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 (Cth)
In 1931 the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster to clarify its relationship with a number of former colonies (now acting very independent of Britain. This Australian Act in 1942 adopted relevant provisions of that Statute declared the Australian Parliament as free and equal in status to the government of Britain
6. Constitutional Alteration (Aboriginals) Act 1967
On 27 May 1967 Australians voted overwhelmingly to change the Constitution by removing certain phrases that discriminated against Aboriginal people. This Act altered the Constitution accordingly
7. Australia Act 1986 (Cth)
The Australia Act removed the possibility that British laws could be made to apply to Australia. It also abolished appeals from Australian courts to the Privy Council in London. A complementary Act was passed in London and Australia was now a “sovereign, independent and federal nation”.
Given the fragile nature of these documents they are only on public display on certain special public viewing days. I saw them on 28 January 2013 (part of the Australia Day long weekend holiday).
Currently (2 Feb 2013) there are no special public viewing days listed on the National Archives web-site. Check it out before visiting Canberra. If these documents are on display they are a must see.
If you are interested in seeing copies of the documents you can see them here: http://www.naa.gov.au/visit-us/exhibitions/federation-gallery/index.aspx
Opening hours : Federation Gallery only open on “special public viewing days” . Check the website of details of viewing days. Also, ask when you visit remaining exhibits at the National Archives.
Entrance fee: Free
Libraries are not typically on my list of must do’s when I visit somewhere but this one, Australia’s largest with approximately 10 million items comprising books, journals, newspapers, archives, manuscripts, pictures, photographs, musical scores, maps, websites and oral history and folklore recordings in its collection is different somehow.
The focus in on Australian items but it also has an extensive Asian, Pacific and world collection.
You should certainly visit the Treasures Gallery (open 10am – 5pm daily) showcasing some of the collection highlights. The display is changed regularly but includes Beethoven's Life Mask, the first printed Star Atlas, a 1715 translation of Homer's The Iliad, James Cook’s Endeavour journal, William Bligh’s list of mutineers, Azaria Chamberlain's birth records and hospital band and an original manuscript for Waltzing Matilda.
In the event that you are Australian and want to access to the main collection you must join (free) and get a library card. International visitors can apply for a temporary onsite library card (free) when visiting the library in person. The library is a reference library, not a lending library, and its collection stacks are not open to the public. If you want to use material from the collections (having secured your library card – a painless process) you need to make a request and staff will deliver the material for you to use in one of the seven reading rooms.
The National Library of Australia was set up in Melbourne in 1901 as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and in 1927 was moved to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.
In 1960 the National Library was formally separated from the Parliamentary Library and moved to its current location in August 1968. The very imposing building by the lakeside is certainly worth a look in itself– a ‘modern’ classical design with stunning Leonard French stained glass windows in the marble foyer, which is also endowed with a liberal collection of tapestries and other artwork.
Main reading room opening hours. Opening hours of other reading rooms vary.
Monday to Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm
Friday and Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm
Tours, exhibitions and events.
Treasures Gallery Tour - come face-to-face with some of the Library’s greatest treasures and Australia’s greatest stories. Daily 10.30 (30 - 40 minutes – no charge) with an additional tour at 11.30 on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
Behind the Scenes Tour- Meet Charlie, the robotic book trolley, visit the enormous stacks where the books are stored, and learn about strange curiosities in the Library's collection. Every Thursday, 2pm and Saturday, 11.30am (50 minutes – no charge).
The library has regular exhibitions (and other events) of a very high quality – check its website before you visit or just turn up and see what’s on.
The library hosts an excellent (all be it slightly expensive) café – The Bookplate Café. This is the best café in the area and assess is available whether or not you are actually visiting the library.
Café opening hours are:
Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 6pm
Friday 8:30am to 4pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am to 3pm
The library also has a good book/gift shop.
You are most likely to be visiting the library as part of general sightseeing in the area. See my seperate/summary tip on visiting sights around the lake.
By Bus : Closest bus stops to the Library are on King Edward Terrace (between Library and Treasury Building) – Routes 2 and 3 from the city centre. Any bus crossing the Commonwealth Bridge (going south from the city) will bring you to within a short walking distance of the library.
By Car : There is time limited free parking available – keep an eye on the clock as the park is patrolled by zealous parking inspectors.
Walk : Walking distance from the city.
This is the repository or some of Australia's and the world's great history. There is always a small exhibition on here and they are usually very interesting.
The building itself is the most dominant of those astride Lake Burley Griffin in the nation's capital. Canberra, being a planned city, doesn't have significant buildings jammed next to each other so the architecture is more at home with its surroundings instead of one eye-jarring high rise stacked adjacent to another. By night (pic 1 and 5) or day it constantly demands attention.
I liken this to the classical temples though instead of round columns you can substitute square and rectangular. Its position adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin makes it the standout architectural feature in Canberra.
As you get close to the building, don't forget to check out the "Totem" sculptures by legendary Aussie sculptor Tom Bass.
You will also note there is a balloon floating by (pic 2). This is a common thing in Canberra in the early mornings when you can hear the roar of the flame bursting across the sky and you can book a flight with one anytime the weather is right though autumn is probably best.
Inside there are over 5,000,000 books and, near the entrance, 3 magnificent tapestries woven at Aubusson in France of Australian merino wool.
Australian artist Leonard French is responsible for the wonderful stained glass windows, whose character and texture are only apparent inside the building.
The National Library building, in a style called “contemporary classical’ is one of Canberra’s more imposing and stately buildings and a favourite of most people. The building was opened in 1968, just seven years after the architect received the brief for it: he subsequently commented that he considered it his finest achievement. I’m unfamiliar with his other work, but this certainly would be hard to top! Don’t just drive past, stop and look at the artworks which embellish it: outside there is a large lintel sculpture and copper panels; inside there are huge tapestries, wall hangings and stained glass windows. Also in the foyer area, you will find a museum display with changing exhibits of rare and fascinating material. Entry to and use of the library is free.
The NLA has the task of collecting and preserving all the significant documentary material relating to Australia and the Australian people – and, what's more, it also has to make it accessible to everyone! This is the largest reference library in Australia, and yes, you can walk in and ask to see a particular item in the reading room or the map room. Best of all for those with interests in genealogy, it has excellent genealogical records and facilities for viewing both digitised records and micro-copied material. Do you want to find out about your convict ancestors? The material from the Public Records Office is available here, plus extensive other records of migrant ships coming to Australia and other relevant old data.
Times change and now the NLA is responding by providing more data online, as well as the opportunity to shop for special publications. While you may live somewhere far overseas from Australia, I can recommend you substitute a visit with a virtual visit via the website below.
Main photo: National Library seen from across the lake
Second photo: Approaching the National Library from near Questacon
Third photo: Aerial perspective of the Library looking east .
Australian democracy has a long, and very well documented history. An entertaining way for the family to get a sense of this history is to visit the National Archives. The permanent collection provides an interesting overview of Australia's history.
Also, check the tour guides or the web for information on the latest exhibition from its extensive collection. There is always something worth an hour or two.
A great library with a collection of important Australian literature and other private and public documents. Parts of the permanent collection are always on exhibit and the library is also the home of larger, more extensive, and very entertaining rotating exhibits.
the Archives holdings include personal papers of the past Prime Ministers, Cabinet decisions, immigration records, the dossiers of the 420,000 men and women who served in World War I.
The National Library of Australia is considered to be an icon of 1960s architecture and is the treasure trove of the nation's literary and documentary heritage.