Big dig doco hero

Uncover Sydney's colonial past through the The Big Dig

Sydney Harbour YHA

Three documentary films interpret the history of one of Australia's largest urban archaeological sites and provide a rare insight into early urban life in Sydney, catering to three distinct audience groups. 'Archaeology at The Big Dig' reached an audience of 168,000 viewers during broadcasts on SBS and has since been watched by 6,400 more on SBS OnDemand and The Big Dig Education Centre website.

  • In this project
  • Interpretive films

  • Film production

  • Video + Animation

  • Awards and recognition
  • 2021 MAPDA Awards

The Big Dig excavations began in 1994, uncovering over a million artefacts and the remnant foundations of over 30 buildings, including early convict homes and businesses. 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of The Big Dig Archaeological site excavations where archaeologists took a new investigative research design approach to a major excavation. This approach continues to offer innovative educational experiences, particularly since the construction of The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre in 2009.

This documentary explores what makes The Big Dig so significant and what makes the 10-year relationship between Sydney Harbour YHA and The Big Dig so special, through the voices of experts involved with the project since inception. It also provides entertaining insights into the early urban life of Sydney's colonial history, through personal and touching stories of some of its pivotal characters.

WINNER in the Level A 'Film' category
2021 MAPDA Awards
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Working with Art of Multimedia on this project has been a very positive experience, with results that were above expectations. Beata Kade and her experienced team guided this project to completion with a high degree of professionalism, whilst also being very approachable and supportive.

Alison Frappell
Education & Interpretation Officer, Sydney Harbour YHA

The production was a creative collaboration between the expert teams at Sydney Harbour YHA, The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre, Place Management NSW, The Rocks Discovery Museum and the Art of Multimedia. We interviewed eminent Australian historical archaeologists, many involved in the projects since inception and YHA CEO Julian Ledger, to provide their multi-disciplinary insights. 

Supplementing the newly filmed footage and interviews with archival footage and photography, as well as animations, AOM employed our storytelling expertise, narration and motion graphics to bring them to life and create a cohesive story. 

Commissioned from the sinking fund of the Sydney Harbour YHA, the objective was to interpret the history of the site, as well as educate and entertain multiple audiences – SHYHA guests, primary & secondary students visiting The Big Dig Education Centre and the general public. 

AOM set about achieving it by producing: 

  1. a 6-minute guest version "Digging into The Rocks - Sydney Harbour YHA and The Big Dig Archaeological Site"
  2. a 17-minute educational version, 'The Big Dig - Investigating Colonial Lives in The Rocks' and finally
  3. the 32-minute film 'Archaeology at The Big Dig, Below Sydney Harbour YHA'

Thus, we weaved together a suite of digital interpretive resources that help visitors and locals alike appreciate this YHA and The Big Dig site for the multilayered value they bring to our community now and into the future. 

"Archaeology is almost meaningless unless we promote the outcomes. The documentary combines historical research, archaeological results, artefacts, stories, visualisations and peoples’ perspectives to present a picture of a neighbourhood through history. This is an invaluable tool to assist in teaching about The Rocks’ past, and will be a most welcome addition to the audio-visual offerings to school groups and to the public through the YHA, The Rocks Discovery Museum and other prospective venues"

Wayne Johnson
Senior Archaeologist, Strategic Planning & Heritage, Place Management NSW

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