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September 2012

Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service - 1973

Have you ever noticed what appears to be a large metal toadstool at some Canberra lookouts?

Talking Toadstool at City Hill Lookout

These are ‘Talking Toadstools’, coin operated information devices that played a recording describing the view visible from that location.  Invented by Arthur Brackenrig from Mudgee NSW, seven were installed at lookouts around Central Canberra in 1973.  The files ‘72/0122 : Canberra Tourist Bureau – Information Machines’, ‘72/1402 : National Capital Development Commission – Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service’, ‘73/0043 : ACT Tourist Bureau – Information Machines (Talking Toadstools)’ and ‘77/0014 : ACT Tourist Bureau – Information Machines (Talking Toadstools)’ document the leasing and maintenance of these machines and the creation of the audio scripts.

72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 29

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Investigation

The article ‘Toadstool has the Answers’ in the Sun-Herald 16/04/1972 attracted the interest of the Director of Public Relations for the Department of the Interior, N.W. Braidwood.  This prompted the Canberra Tourist Bureau to investigate the purchase of Talking Toadstools for tourist spots around Canberra.

72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 2

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 3

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 4

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 7

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Representatives from the Canberra Tourist Bureau met with Arthur Brackenrig and his Associates from Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service on 31st July 1972.  The machines could not be purchased so would need to be leased from Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service with maintenance and money collection provided by them.  Scripts for the narrations would be provided by the Department of the Interior to be recorded by Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service.

72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 11

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 16

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 15

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 14

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 22

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Scripts

It was decided that there would be a 12 month trial at seven sites around Central Canberra and scripts were drafted for each of these locations.  These scripts can be downloaded via the following links:

  • Talking Toadstool Script No.1 Mount Ainslie (PDF Icon PDF 571Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.2 City Hill (PDF Icon PDF 563Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.3 Red Hill – City Side (PDF Icon PDF 600Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.4 Red Hill – Woden Side (PDF Icon PDF 671Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.5 Government House (PDF Icon PDF 470Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.6 Scrivener Dam (PDF Icon PDF 375Kb)
  • Talking Toadstool Script No.7 Black Mountain (PDF Icon PDF 500Kb)

Installation

72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 31

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 40

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 39

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72/122 - Canberra Tourist Bureau - Information Machines - folio 44

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 75

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 76

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Vandalism

Unfortunately it did not take long for the Talking Toadstools to become victims of vandalism.  During 1973 Toadstool Automatic Advisory Service redesigned the Talking Toadstools to make them more resistant to attack.

73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 82

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 87

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 89

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 90

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 93

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 96

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 101

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 106

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Despite these problems it was decided to allow the Talking Toadstools to remain.

73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 127

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 147

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73/43 - ACT Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) - folio 146

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Other related files:

  • 81/0111 - Department of the Capital Territory - Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools) 
  • 81/3246 - Department of the Capital Territory - Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools)
  • 84/5590 - Department of the Capital Territory - Tourist Bureau - Information Machines (Talking Toadstools)

Although the Talking Toadstools no longer function, a few can still be found in their original locations such as the one below at the City Hill Lookout on Vernon Circle (photos taken 03/08/2012).

Talking Toadstool at City Hill LookoutTalking Toadstool at City Hill LookoutTalking Toadstool at City Hill Lookout

Links to external sites:

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