A 1993 Reclaim the Night t-shirt, a t-shirt from the 2013 Canberra Centenary and a Wonder Woman jumper knitted by a fan are among the personal items collected over two decades by Robyn Archer and given to the National Museum of Australia.
Archer, best known in Canberra for long stints here as director of the Centenary of Canberra and the National Festival of Australian Theatre, is also an internationally respected singer, writer, performer, artistic director and public arts advocate, who grew up in Adelaide and later became director of the Adelaide Festival.
As program director for the Centenary here, she lived in Canberra for three years and oversaw 12 months of celebrations, attracting crowds of about 150,000 to the “One Very Big Day” event on Lake Burley Griffin.
Archer had begun singing professionally at the age of 12. Her one-woman cabaret, “A Star Is Torn” toured Australia from 1979 to 1983 and ran for a year at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End and her 1981 show, “The Pack of Women”, was produced for television in 1986.
Other works for the stage included “The Conquest of Carmen Miranda”, “Songs from Sideshow Alley” and “Café Fledermaus”, a new opera – “Mambo” – for the Nexus Opera in London a play, “Architektin”, and “Tough Nut Cabaret”, developed for a production in Pittsburgh, US.
Archer’s second career as an arts festival director began in Canberra in the 1990s when she took the fledgling National Festival of Australian Theatre, founded by Anthony Steel, and turned it into a national s showcase. After she left, the festival was dropped, but Archer would take the Performing Arts Market and the Critics’ Circle ventures with her to Adelaide when she took up the directorship of the festival there.
That would be the first of many, including the Melbourne Festival, Tasmania’s “Ten Days on the” Island and the ill-fated Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008.
She has recorded 11 albums, published numerous books and is an Officer of the Order of Australia, Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), Officer of the Order of the Crown (Belgium) and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
Archer commented: “Photographs, programs, recordings and posters all portray an interesting trajectory of what has turned out to be a long and still energetic career in the arts. But I hadn’t quite realised that the merchandise does exactly the same thing – and in a very colourful way. I love the way the Museum has curated this glimpse.”
The Robyn Archer collection includes the following items:
- 1993 Reclaim the Night (angel) T-shirt
- 1994 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras ABC broadcast T-shirt
- Virgin of Guadalupe (Mexico) T-shirt
- 1995 National Festival of Australian Theatre T-shirt
- 1995 National Festival of Australian Theatre mug
- 1998 Telstra Adelaide Festival T-shirt
- 2000 Adelaide Festival T-shirt
- 2001 May Day Darwin T-shirt
- 2002 Melbourne Festival T-shirt
- 2003 Melbourne International Arts Festival T-shirt
- 2004 Melbourne International Arts Festival T-shirt
- 2001 Ten Days on the Island T-shirt
- 2003 Ten Days on the Island T-shirt
- 2005 Ten Days on the Island T-shirt
- 2011 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture (Melbourne) tote bag
- 2013 Canberra 100 T-shirt with rainbow
- Wonder Woman jumper knitted by a fan, gifted to Ms Archer and previously displayed in the Eternity gallery at the National Museum
- Cardigan depicting Robyn Archer’s face and the cover of her album A Star Is Torn, knitted by an unknown fan.
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