Media release: Thursday, 23 January 2014
Some of Australia's most valued historical records will be on special view at the National Archives when its Federation Gallery opens for the Australia Day weekend.
The seven documents in the gallery, known collectively as the nation's 'birth certificates', include the original Constitution Act passed by the British Parliament – enabling the federation of the Australian colonies – and the Royal Commission of Assent signed by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900.
They are on public view only on rare occasions, to ensure their preservation for future generations.
Tests have shown that parts of the documents may risk fading if they remain permanently on show, so the Federation Gallery now opens only for special public viewing days. At other times, the documents are stored under heavy blackout covers to shield them from the light.
'We need to carefully balance the documents' future preservation needs with the public's interest in viewing them,' Director-General of the National Archives David Fricker said.
'It is vital that we ensure the survival of our nation's birth certificates but we also wish to encourage Australians to view and value them.'
The documents will be on view on from Saturday 25 to Monday 27 January from 9am to 5pm.
'Our gallery host will also be on hand to explain some of the interesting aspects of these fascinating documents,' said Mr Fricker. 'We will also present visitors with a pocket edition of Australia's Constitution to take home.'
Other exhibitions at the National Archives, including Memory of a Nation and I've been working on the railway will also be open, as usual, over the weekend.