In the Realm of Censors


New exhibition beginning at the State Records office NSW "provides a unique opportunity to enter the world of New South Wales censorship authorities between 1955 and 1982. The exhibition features Australian and international publications and official records which are now part of the State archives collection.

The publications range from the low to high brow, and soft to hard core. Once they had a life of their own, out and about in the world, circulating via bookstores and sex shops, on the street and through the mail. Then they were bought, seized or submitted to censorship authorities for research, review, classification or possible prosecution.

For the last 20 years these novels, pictorials, magazines, newspapers, manuals and catalogues have been closed to the public within the State archives. State Records opens the contents of this cultural time capsule for historical reappraisal within the exhibition, In the Realm of the Censors.


Since 1982, the publications in the censorship series have been sitting upright in alphabetical order in their archive boxes at State Records. Frank Moorhouse’s novel The Americans Baby cohabits with The Adventures of Fanny Fondle, The Art of Sensual Massage and Australia’s Censorship Crisis (a book of essays edited by Geoffrey Dutton and Max Harris). Close by are The Batchelor’s Keep Fit Companion, Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers, The Catcher in the Rye and Cock Happy.

Many of the publications were unrestricted or released when they were classified between 1955 and 1982. Some that were restricted then, would be freely available if reviewed today. Others would continue to be restricted or refused classification.

To allow the widest possible audience to see the exhibition, State Records has referred to current classification guidelines to select material with unrestricted content for display.

Reading Culture

The publications and official files in the censorship series provide evidence of the work of censorship authorities and the culture they monitored, analysed and regulated.

Most of the censorship material in the State archives collection is from the 1960s and 70s - a period of great social change. Through the records it is possible to chart the emergence and evolution of the feminist and gay movements and other social and political trends. The role of censorship authorities shifts as well, from the morals protector of the 1950s towards the contemporary consumer advisor of today. As signs of their times, these records also reveal the ways photography, fashion and gesture combine to create historically specific bodies of desire.

In the Realm of the Censors is an exhibition which moves beyond the arguments for and against censorship, and allows us to ‘read’ culture through the records.

Some people might be offended by material displayed in the exhibition. Children under 18 years of age should be accompanied by an adult.

There are also a number of events planned as part of the exhibition, details from the website.