[A wooden box contains a small doll lying in a contraption that features a circula saw. A doll in a leotard stands in a yellow plastic box with red shelves at her knees, waist and chin. The first doll lies tied to the contraption platform. A hand swings the circular saw down through the doll and leaves it embedded in her waist.]
[Cymbal crashes, applause]
[A black-and-white cut-out of a smiling magician holding two boxes stands in front of a red curtain. His face moves into a close-up and light twinkles in his eye.]
Dominique Dunstan, a dark-haired woman wearing a dark blouse, stands in front of old-fashioned posters, speaking to camera: Will Alma was a celebrated Australian magician. He was passionately interested in every aspect of conjuring.
[Dominique takes the circular saw contraption from its box.]
Dominique: One of the real treasures of the Alma collection is his scale models of classic stage illusions. This is called the ‘buzz-saw illusion’. Instead of the old pine box with someone hacking through like a tree…
[Dominique swings the saw through the doll's waist.]
Dominique: …the saw actually cuts straight through her.
[Dominique opens a box containing a range of wands – one wooden, one metal, one cream coloured, one blue, the rest black with white or silver ends.]
Dominique: These are magicians’ wands from around the world. This might be the most personal of a magician’s apparatus.
[Dominique takes a wand from the box, then puts it back in its compartment]
Dominique: I think one of the really nice things about these wands is they’re not too shiny. They’ve got a real handmade patina to them, which is really charming. Of course, once they’re up on stage, they become something quite magical and gleam and sparkle and enchant you.
That wand has seen a lot of magic… [Dominique chuckles]
[Dominique opens a wide, thin file drawer holding an old-fashioned poster for an Alma show which features a magician, devils, a skeleton, a stringed instrument and a woman in a box.]
Dominique: This is a beautiful example of one of Alma’s posters. It shows you some of the wild things that’ll be happening on stage when you go and see Will Alma perform.
[Dominique stands next to a framed poster on a wall, which shows a dignified-looking magician performing magic in a courthouse as a policeman, judge and lawyer watch. Smoke rises around a sinister-looking head.]
Dominique: This is Pharos, who was Alma’s father. We’ve got bats and disembodied heads and snakes and skulls.
[Holding a yellow-covered book called Magic made easy, Dominique speaks to camera.]
Dominique: Of course, the heart of the Alma collection is the books. This is where all the knowledge and secrets and techniques are stored. This is actually Alma’s very first book. His mother had actually forbidden him to be involved in magic, so he secretly got this book and he used to hide in a closet and study it.
[Dominique opens to a page with a diagram of a sleeve. The page edges have yellowed.]
Dominique: You can see that it’s been very, very well read. He must’ve read this from cover to cover, over and over and over. So this shows you how a book can change your life.
[Dominique looks through another book featuring black-and-white sketches]
Dominique, speaking to camera: Mr Alma did place some conditions on the use of the collection.
[A close-up of a poster shows a devil whispering in a magician's ear.]
Dominique: One of the most important ones is that we never publicly display the workings of a trick or an illusion.
[Six silver alarm clocks are lined up near a wand. Behind Dominique, a poster for 'A mystic comedy' show features a magician holding a woman's head while her body stands nearby, surrounded by snakes and skeletons.]
Dominique: But we certainly encourage young magicians to come into the library and learn all the secrets of magic…
[Alma's grinning black-and-white cut-out stands in front of the red curtain. It moves back, revealing he is holding a pack of cards.
Dominique: …so that there’ll always be magicians here to entertain us and amaze us.
[Text onscreen: State Library of Victoria. Produced by Renegade Films. Music by Kevin Macleod. Copyright State Library of Victoria 2011.