The Francis Collection of pre-cinematic apparatus and ephemera was acquired by the Australian and Victorian Governments in 1975. David Francis was the curator of the National Film and Sound Archive of the British Film Institute as well as being a co-founder of the Museum of the Moving Image in London, which was operational between 1988 and 1999.

The Australian Film Institute began operating a library in 1978, which was located in Cardigan Street in Carlton. Later that year a joint venture between the AFI and the Victorian Federation of Film Societies expanded the library's resources. The library was named the George Lugg Library after a founding governor of the AFI and the Federation, whose collection of information resources formed the core of the Library. From 1982, the Library became known as the AFI Research and Information Centre.

A second notable part of the original library resources was a rare collection of books on pre-cinema and early cinema history, part of the valuable David Francis Collection, purchased by the Victorian and Australian governments in 1975. The early cinema artefacts in this collection are now housed at the Scienceworks Museum in Melbourne. The Library also maintains a unique collection of film and personality clippings which form the basis of its research services to the media and public.

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