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Arts Centre Melbourne is the proud custodian of the Australian Performing Arts Collection (APAC), which is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of Australia’s circus, dance, music, opera and theatre heritage.

Collecting began in the late 1970s and today, the collection holds over 700,000 items, including major acquisitions from Dame Nellie Melba, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Barry Humphries, Bell Shakespeare and The Australian Ballet.

Drawing on the APAC we tell the stories of performance through the extraordinary objects, from concept designs to costumes, from personal and production archives to photography.


Digital Exhibitions

Drawn to Dance: A Journey Through Design

Drawn to Dance: A Journey Through Design
Curated by David McAllister, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet 2001-2020

As the longest serving Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister commissioned close to 40 new works for the company. Curated by McAllister himself, this dynamic digital exhibition showcases designs from the Australian Performing Arts Collection to present an illustrated reflection on the productions he generated for the company since 2001.

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Grand: Costumes from the Dame Joan Sutherland Collection

Grand: Costumes from the Dame Joan Sutherland Collection

Grand is a dynamic and interactive online exhibition from the Australian Performing Arts Collection – using 3D models and macro photography to create rich digital content. Explore Dame Joan Sutherland's iconic costume details in close-up, unearth historical facts and view rare footage from past performances.

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Uncover the Collection

Explore the intricate details of costumes and objects, and discover fascinating stories of great Australian artists.


Dance

Dance

 

Circus

Circus

 

Opera

Opera

 

Music

Music

 

Theatre

Theatre

 

Art Collection

Art Collection

 

Featured Stories


How do you collect the performing arts?

How do you collect the performing arts?

Arts Centre Melbourne are the proud custodians and initiators of the Australian Performing Arts Collection. This collection of over 690,000 items is stored in Melbourne and displayed in exhibitions and online. There are many fantastic performing arts companies and performers working in Australia – how do curators decide which items should be preserved for future generations in this collection? This story will give you some insights into the selection process.

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ABC 7.30 Report feature on the Australian Performing Arts Collection

Inside the Australian Performing Arts Collection

The ABC’s 7.30 visited the Australian Performing Arts Collection to uncover some truly amazing objects. From items over 100 years old including Wirth’s Scrapbook and Dame Nellie Melba’s bodice to Australia’s beloved Ozzie Ostrich puppet, Kylie Minogue’s costumes and Nice Cave’s notebook. Watch the full story with Samantha Hamilton – Head of Collections, Preservation and Access, and Janine Barrand – Director of the Australian Performing Arts Collection.

Image credit: 7.30 Report

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Circus, slides & roller skates: before Arts Centre Melbourne

Circus, slides & roller skates: before Arts Centre Melbourne

Did you know that on the site of Arts Centre Melbourne, there were once circuses, a roller skating rink, a dance hall, and even a water slide?


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Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Dame Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger were two of the most famous Australians of their time. Both achieved success on the world stage and became household names in the country of their birth.


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Travelling with Nick Cave's Portfolio

Travelling with Nick Cave's Portfolio

The Australian Performing Arts Collection goes on tour, and sometimes it needs a chaperone.


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May de Souza

Performing the Past

Dr Kate Rice, the 2020 Frank Van Straten Research Fellowship recipient, uncovers stories from the Australian Performing Arts Collection in a series of creative docu-drama podcasts, that bring forgotten stories of the Australian stage to life.


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