The National Library of Australia celebrates the 40th anniversary of the opening of its iconic building with a series of special events on Monday 25 August.

With its elegant classical lines, the building is a tribute to the vision of architects Bunning and Madden and includes important contributions from renowned artists Henry Moore, Tom Bass and Leonard French. The Library is a landmark building in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle and the principal storehouse of Australia’s documentary heritage.

In the mid-1950s, almost 30 years after moving from its first home in Melbourne, the Library’s collection was spread across 15 buildings in Canberra including the morgue, laundry and caretaker’s office at the old Canberra Hospital at Acton, a grocery store at the railway station and (in the case of nitrate films) an explosives shed at the Mugga quarry.

In 1961, the Sydney firm Bunning & Madden, with associates Tom O’Mahoney and Noel Potter, was appointed the Library’s architect. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Robert Menzies on 31 March 1966. He wanted “something with columns” and while the architects obliged with unmistakeable references to the Parthenon in Athens, they were aware of more contemporary trends. The Library was opened on 15 August 1968 by Prime Minister John Gorton, and admitted its first readers three days later.

National Library Director-General Jan Fullerton said, “This anniversary is not just about the past. It is a time to embark on the Library’s vision for the future, including a focus on preserving our digital memory and the creation of a new Treasures Gallery.”

The Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett AM has been invited to cut the 40th birthday cake.

More information about the 40th birthday celebrations is available at

A display, The Opening Chapter: Building the National Library, can be seen in the Visitors’ Centre until 16 November 2008. High-resolution images of the history of the Library's construction, are available for download at


The Hon Peter Garrett AM will cut the birthday cake at about 11.15 am on Monday 25 August in the Foyer of the Library.

Media contacts: Sally Hopman, 02 6262 1704;
Ellen Peterson, 02 6262 1571;