Take a Look is an installation from the National Library of Australia that explores Australian stories through the Library's collections. Located in front of the Library's entrance, each letter reveals significant moments in our nation's history, with an item inside that brings these stories to life.

For those close to the Library, #TakeALook at the letters that have recently been updated. For those further afield, explore these stories and more from the Library online. Go ahead and #TakeALook.

N is for a nation of music lovers and the notes that inspire us

A man in shorts, tshirt, cap and sunglasses is depicted jumping in mid-air, singing into a microphone. Another musician stands behind him.
Martin Philbey (b.1962), Hilltop Hoods Performing at Big Day Out, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, 28 January 2008, nla.obj-151551215

'Oh I would have purpose, I would have peace if I had your fire and grace'

- Hilltop Hoods, Fire and Grace, 2019

Do you remember rocking out to AC/DC on your walkman on the way to school? Did the Hilltop Hoods speak to your experience? Or does the jingle of The Bushwackers’ lagerphone tell us more about who you are? Whatever your musical taste, it’s very likely that you have moments of your life that are punctuated by the music of the time.

Music inspires us and speaks to who we are in some form, whether that be our own triumphs and struggles, who we are as a nation or your place in community. A look at the National Library’s collection will uncover a treasure trove of musical resources. From images capturing that magic moment at a concert, to the over 300,000 musical scores, to audio recordings in the Oral History and Folklore collection, there is something for everyone.


  • Discover what it’s like to stand on stage by looking inside the letter N in our forecourt installation.
  • Visit the On Stage exhibition to see our rich history of musical performers.
  • Learn more about the music collection with our research guides.
  • Listen to composer Don Kay talk about his own style of composition.

L is for lifting our spirits

Photograph of a woman in a white Swan Lake costume, striking a ballet pose
Walter Stringer (1907-2001), Iovanka Biegovic, Swan Lake, 1960, Borovansky Ballet, nla.obj-146854778

'To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.'

- Agnes De Mille

Like a graceful pirouette or poised arabesque, dance can lift our spirits. When it comes to dance, no one puts the National Library’s collection in the corner. There is a large and rich collection of material to explore featuring Australian dancers at home and abroad. The collection also documents some of the world’s most famous dancers and their experience in Australia, including Anna Pavlova.

The collection enables you to hear and see dance in this country from many perspectives. Famous choreographer Sir Robert Helpmann features heavily in the collection, with some stunning imagery of him in our current On Stage exhibition. You can also explore the oral history collection, which has of over 55,000 hours of material. The oral history recordings of Dame Peggy Van Praagh, who established the Australian Ballet in 1962, are a particular highlight of this collection.


A is for artistic pursuits

Photograph of a live singing scene featuring a woman and children in sailor suits
Bruce Postle (b.1940), Lisa McCune as Maria von Trapp in the Stage Production of The Sound of Music, Melbourne, March 2000, nla.obj-148394142

'It's only be public support that we can continue our work.'

- Dame Doris Fitton

For many of us, we grow up with a love of the performing arts, often not realising that we do.  Our favourite TV shows, live performances and the music we listen to all contribute to this lifelong love. Behind all of these are the amazing, talented and creative artists who strive to entertain and delight us.

Australia has a vibrant performing arts industry that features a range of artists and creative people who have forged exciting careers at home and abroad. In this global age, Australia’s performing arts are sometimes characterised as bold and collaborative, but with a larrikin spirit. Over the last 50 years, Australian performers and companies have continued to move and challenge audiences, inspiring us to laugh and cry.

From amateur to professional, performing artists are not just a reflection of who we are and our culture, they often also shape and mould our identity and can allow us to showcase ourselves on the world stage.


  • Find who is lurking within the letter A when you visit our podium.
  • Visit the Treasures Gallery to see some of our collection that highlights a century of Circus in Australia.
  • Discover how an American born comedian has had a lasting impact on the Australian theatre for over 150 years.
  • Listen to Eric Duckworth’s recollections of his life in the theatre.