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Snapshot of Aussie Greek cafe culture

10 JULY 2008

A photography exhibition exploring an important chapter in the development of Australian culture, Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café, opens at the National Museum of Australia on Friday 11 July.

The Greek café is a global phenomenon in a modern era. Food-catering enterprises run by Greek migrants successfully married Hellenic and cross-cultural influences with local needs. Greek-run cafés populated Australian country towns and cities, merging local fare with new American food catering ideas.

Prior to the explosion of American fast food franchises, Greek cafés contributed to a major change in Australian eating habits. While a traditional mixed grill remained a favourite, Greek cafés were known for their introduction of sundaes, hamburgers and 'American style' ice-cream into communities all over Australia.

The photographs in the exhibition, both historical and modern, capture the decor of the cafés, their customers and the owners who worked hard to make their businesses successful. The National Museum of Australia has added material to the exhibition from several Australian Greek cafés including classic Art Deco furniture from the Busy Bee Café in Gunnedah, and silverware from the Blue Bird Café in Lockhart, New South Wales. Café signs designed and made for the Legend Café, Melbourne, by Leonard French and Clement Meadmore advertising delicacies such as ice-cream sodas and Peach Melba are also on display.

Most of the photographs in Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café were taken by co-curator of the exhibition, Effy Alexakis. A freelance documentary photographer, she has worked with historian Leonard Janiszewski since 1982 to research and document the Greek-Australian historical and contemporary presence in both Australia and Greece.

Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café coincides with another photographic exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, A Different Time: the Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow 1903 -1928 on display until 12 October. Both exhibitions are part of the Vivid National Photography Festival.

Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café was developed by the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians' National Project based at Macquarie University, Sydney. The exhibition is on display at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra until 16 November 2008, admission is free.

For more information about Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café visit www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions

For interviews, images and more information please contact Dennis Grant on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481; Caroline Vero on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au