A man in cricket whites and a hat holding a cricket stump and looking upwards.
Steve Holland, 'Australian cricketer Shane Warne holding a cricket ball and stump at the end of the Fourth Test of the Ashes Series, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,' 28 December 2006 [detail], nla.gov.au/nla.obj-137980452

Every weekend sporting contests around the country generate stories that we tell and retell. ‘What an amazing catch!’; ‘I can’t believe that come back!’; ‘The crowd is going wild!’. Some stories go on to become part of the nation’s popular imagination. 

Grit & Gold: Tales from a Sporting Nation explores some of Australia’s favourite sporting stories. Whether it is Ash Barty winning the Australian Open in 2022, Betty Cuthbert’s ‘Golden Girl’ moment at the 1956 Olympics or cricket’s ‘Bodyline series’ of 1932–33, Grit & Gold celebrates sporting stories that bring us together.  

Dr Guy Hansen, Director of Exhibitions at the Library and one of the exhibition curators, said sport is a storytelling machine.  

‘Sporting contests naturally generate great stories. Watching the contest is an immersive experience – the rest of the world disappears. There is suspense and surprise, there is exaltation and despair. You are taken on a journey which has a definite end, even though you might not always like the result.’  

‘Looking at photographs, pictures and objects relating to Australian sporting history reminds us how powerful these stories are,’ Dr Hansen added.   

Director-General of the National Library of Australia Dr Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA said the exhibition captures the spirit of Australian life.  

‘Our collections tell a vast range of stories highlighting the triumphs and tribulations of human endeavour, including the contributions made by many to Australia’s rich sporting heritage,’ Dr Ayres said.  

‘The National Library may not necessarily be a place many would associate with sport, but when you consider the stories and societal impacts of sport and the contributions of the people who play and support it, you really get a sense of how valuable it is to the cultural fabric of our nation.’ 

A selection of Emma McKeon’s gold medals from various Olympic and Commonwealth Games; the outfit worn by Ash Barty during her victorious 2021 Wimbledon campaign; an autographed cricket bat used by Don Bradman; the ‘State of Origin’ shield awarded from 1980 to 1991 depicting Brett Kenny and Wally Lewis; and an Olympic torch from the Sydney 2000 Olympics are among the highlights on display.  

Other material in the exhibition includes scorecards, trophies, books, pamphlets, photographs, drawings and clothing relating to swimming, tennis, cricket, the Olympics and Paralympics, NRL, AFL, sailing and boxing to name a few. The 160 items on display are drawn from the collections of the National Library of Australia and other national cultural institutions, photographic archives, sporting museums, and local sports associations and clubs. 

Visitors will also get to enjoy an opportunity to sit and read in a new book nook in the exhibition gallery featuring a selection of sporting biographies.   

On your marks, get set, and go to the National Library of Australia from Friday 9 June 2023, when Grit & Gold: Tales from a Sporting Nation opens to the public. The exhibition is exclusive to Canberra and will run until Sunday 5 November 2023. Entry is free. 

Additional Information  

Images for media use are available for download via Dropbox


Pallavi Mathur 

Media Liaison 

National Library of Australia 

Mobile: 0401 226 697 

Email: media@nla.gov.au