Explore some fruity tales from the National Library’s collections as part of Enlighten 2021. 

Inspired by the United Nation’s International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, the National Library’s Enlighten experience includes images, music and interviews.

From artist Ellis Rowan’s richly coloured native fruits to advertising posters for pineapples, from peach canning to winemaking, use your time at Enlighten NLA to reflect on the role fruit has played in agriculture, industry, work and leisure, and in the food we eat.

“This year, our illuminations form an evocative visual narrative that is brought to life with animation and digital projectors for the very first time,” said National Library Community Engagement Director, Kathryn Favelle. “Harvest reflects the lively history of fruit in Australia. We hope that our illuminations will encourage people to dig deeper into the Library’s collections and discover their own connections to this vital part of the Australian story.” 

Learn more about the Library’s Enlighten 2021 projections below. An interview with the creators behind the projections can be viewed here.

We used to eat all that wild fruit...


A series of watercolours by botanical illustrators Ellis Rowan and Marrianne Collinson Campbell capture the native Australian fruit, including the woody pear, the screw pine and the wild quandong. The artworks are complemented by the voices of John Walsh and Marjorie Bond. Walsh recalls foraging for quandongs, which he describes as having “a red skin and a hard nut” — similar to a native peach. 

You could hear ‘plop, plop’ and the fruit would be starting to fall…


Apples sway on their branches; ripe, heavy and ready to drop to the ground in photographs taken by Frank Hurley, best-known for his work in Antarctica and in both world wars. Kelvyn Vickers and Marjorie Bond run through a curious list of apple varieties, while Bryan Redden remembers lying in bed on a hot summer’s night and hearing fruit falling off trees in the orchard outside: ‘You know then it was [time to] get out and pick them, or you’re going to lose them.” Nearly-ripe fruit typically hung looser on the tree before farmers implemented proper irrigation systems, and fruit that hit the ground would be damaged and difficult to sell. 

There was an acre of grapes at Narrabundah…


Max Dupain, one of Australia’s foremost modernist photographers, visited Mount Pleasant winery in 1950 to document the vineyard and Maurice O’Shea, often referred to as the ‘father’ of contemporary Australian winemaking. The accompanying soundscape hears winemaker Edgar Riek and farmer John Giumelli recall the vineyard in Narrabundah, close to the centre of Canberra. Established by the Forner family, the 1.2ha vineyard grew red and white grapes from the mid-1920s through to the late 1950s, when the ACT Government resumed leases for housing.  

They have a knife, and they whip it around the peach…


Photographs by Barry Wilton show women workers sorting peach halves as they move down the production line at Leeton Co-operative Cannery in New South Wales. Ted Bull was a fruit-picker before finding work at a peach cannery, working as a ‘tray boy’ and later a ‘crimper’ in the Goulburn Valley. He enthusiastically describes watching the women in action at the cannery - “They’re incredible… you could watch them for hours!”  

They used to barge the fruit to Circular Quay…


A series of advertisements and labels recalls a golden age for vintage design, with vibrant, playful illustrations and bold, colourful graphic elements spruiking “deliciously sweet oranges” from Yanco, “fancy apples” from Tasmania and “crisp” black muscat grapes from Orange. Kelvyn Vickers, Nathalie Norris and Marjorie Bond recall growing apple varieties “for the English palette,” while an advertisement for imported Australian fruit encourages the United Kingdom to “Buy Australian Fruit: British to the core.” The soundscape fades out as John Dengate sings a folk song he wrote with his father about taking the fruit to Circular Quay by barge, before the railway was constructed. 


  • The Library’s illuminations will be visible 8pm to 11pm each night from 26 February to 8 March. Visitors are required to use the Check In CBR app when viewing the architectural projections, and to register to attend all other events including Enlighten Alley and Bentspoke Beer Garden.