Internationally acclaimed singer, writer, performer, artistic director and public arts advocate Robyn Archer AO has donated personal items collected over two decades to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Archer began singing professionally at the age of 12 and has performed a range of genres. Her 1979 one-woman cabaret A Star Is Torn and her 1981 show The Pack of Women both became successful books and recordings. Archer has also created works for the stage, including The Conquest of Carmen Miranda, Songs from Sideshow Alley and Café Fledermaus. She wrote Mambo for the Nexus Opera in London in 1989. In 2008 her play Architektin premiered in Adelaide, and in 2009 she developed Tough Nut Cabaret for a production in Pittsburgh, USA.

Following a successful performance and production career, Archer became an arts festival director, developing events in Australia and abroad for two decades. The Robyn Archer collection comprises 18 objects gathered during her prolific career, including a 1993 Reclaim the Night T-shirt, a Wonder Woman jumper, a cardigan knitted by a fan, and memorabilia from festivals Archer has directed, such as the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the Adelaide Festival.

The collection also contains Archer’s T-shirt from the 2013 Canberra Centenary. As program director, she curated a calendar of events and oversaw 12 months of celebrations that saw heightened visitation to the capital, including crowds of around 150,000 at the One Very Big Day event. “I am delighted to donate these mementos to the National Historical Collection. Photographs, programs, recordings and posters all portray an interesting trajectory of what has turned out to be a long and still energetic career in the arts. But I hadn’t quite realised that the merchandise does exactly the same thing, […]” said Archer.

“Robyn Archer is often referred to as a national treasure. Her career has evolved from an extraordinary one-woman performer to a director of major arts and cultural festivals across Australia,” said Curator Dr Lily Withycombe. “We are thrilled to welcome these personal mementos to the National Historical Collection. They will help us tell the rich stories of theatre and festival culture in Australia and the role of women in the arts.”

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