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ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR @ State Library

Forty years and Melbourne has become a vista of vanguard progressions. A multicultural boom led to the re-enlivenment of a city which had stagnated ­– the CBD became a hoard of enthusiasm and vivaciousness. In the same time frame, esteemed Melbourne community radio broadcaster 3RRR has established itself as not just a cultural lifeblood but a divergent conversational retreat.
 
As part of Melbourne Music Week, a special exhibition into the tumultuous yet steeling era of the radio station has been unveiled. ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR proves to enlighten the unaware and mollify the informed of rare, never-before-seen capsules decisive in the makeup of the 3RRR identity. The exhibit covers five themes which go some way to depicting the broadcaster’s heritage, alongside a number of quirky miscellanea.
 
My Beating Heart encompasses 40 years as a whole, uncovering some of the station’s most crucial recollections. Yesteryear music charts are uncapped as well as adored gig posters, stickers, photos and a defining quote from Leaping Larry L. “It’s there as an alternative to the mainstream. It’s a bit like a footy team – committee men come and go, players come and go, but the fans and the colours stay the same.”
 
The radio station is known for being entirely un-playlisted, and for those curious in the mastery it takes to run an off-the-cuff program, Live and Loud allows you to manoeuvre your very own mixing console. Veer right and a piece of the station’s technological archive awaits. A timeline of technologies, from retro cassette and record players to amplifiers and speakers, is amalgamated to form a topsy-turvy multimedia wall with an infinite television loop of video fragments put together within the station premises.
 
Continue through the exhibition and you can’t help but be alarmed by the foreboding presence of Sam Wallman’s goofy pillar illustrations. For exhibition curator Angela Bailey, she’s fascinated to see how the public will react to the sinister portrayals as well as some of the other tangible treasures.
 
“I really like that we’ve done some big vinyl reproductions of Sam Wallman’s illustrator grid, which I think create a really good energy to the space,” she says. “I like seeing some of the more object-based things that have come out of the station that were made for Radiothon imagery, like the mirror radio, the paper radio and then some of the old analogue equipment as well, but I like how it all goes together."
 
ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR is an all-encompassing commemoration, capturing much of the legacy 3RRR instituted and then cultivated. But a history so vast can be difficult to honour entirely, “The hardest thing was ‘what to show’ because it’s such a big history,” Bailey says. “It’s about trying to curate it into a way that there’s something for everyone, so 3RRR listeners as well as people who come in who have no idea, visiting from interstate, international, that hopefully will be able to pick up something to engage with.”  
 
By Tom Parker
Image: Anna Madden