An Australian treasure chest: new National Archives hub opens in Canberra

More than 100 kilometres of shelf space and room for nine kilometres of audio visual records have come online at the newest home of Australia's national treasures.

The National Archives of Australia's new specialist preservation facility in Mitchell was opened on Friday by Attorney-General George Brandis, set to become home to about a quarter of the national collection alongside state-of-the-art conservation facilities, digitisation spaces and research rooms.

The new 17,000-square-metre building, opened on International Archives Day in front of visiting overseas archivists and dignitaries, is already keeping safe priceless records and artefacts including the incoming passenger cards for the Beatles' 1964 tour, reports of UFO sightings around Australia and rare footage from the history of the ABC.

Environmentally controlled and energy efficient, the building will be home for about 150 staff with its unusual facade a reference to the Australian landscape, including a weathered, uneven and sunburnt surface.

It sits among storage facilities for a range of Australia's national collecting institutions.

National director-general David Fricker said end to end, the records stored at the new building would be enough to circle Uluru about 12 times.

"This is a monumental moment in the Archives' history. The Archives' role in preserving the national archival collection underpins the democratic process and ensures public accountability.

"The National Archives preservation facility also provides increased capacity to transfer and store digital records, as Australian government agencies transition to digital information managers, a process in which the National Archives plays a lead role."

The opening comes as the federal government prepares to sell the National Archives headquarters, East Block, near Old Parliament House. It is expected to be leased for continued use, including its public reading room and events spaces.

Senator Brandis acknowledged national archivists from the United Kingdom and United States and described the collection as a repository of the nation's memories. He thanked the staff of the Archives for their essential work.

"Archivists are the keepers of some of our most precious things: our public documents. And whatever form those documents may take - paper, photographic, digital or some other medium - they are the physical records of our nation's story," he said.

"We are engaged in an act of homage: to our history and to the people who made that history.

"We pay homage to their stories, to all of the events - whether history-changing or everyday events - in which they took part, the totality of which is the story of Australia."

This story An Australian treasure chest: new National Archives hub opens in Canberra first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.