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Developing the collections

World Trade Centre flag
Director Craddock Morton with an Australian flag retrieved from the World Trade Centre ruins.
Photo: George Serras.

The NHC originally comprised objects transferred to the Museum by the Federal Government following the Museum's establishment in 1980. These were mostly from the former Australian Institute of Anatomy, the former Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the University of Sydney as well as a number of government departments and agencies. Since 1980 the Museum has acquired objects through donations, sponsorship and purchase.

This year was extremely productive for the collections development program. In the 2004 budget, the Federal Government announced that the Museum would receive $1 million per year for acquisitions. With this injection of funds, the Museum was able to secure iconic, compelling artefacts for the NHC, and will have the means to do so in the future.

New acquisitions

Michelle Downes with the crown she wore as Miss Australia 1973.
Michelle Downes with the crown she wore as Miss Australia 1973. Photo: Dean McNicoll.

Council approved 108 significant collections during the year for inclusion in the NHC, the details of which are in Appendix 3. Important objects acquired through purchase or gift this year included:

  • the first-ever Holden, the No. 1 Prototype, constructed in Detroit as the definitive model for millions of Holden cars
  • the No. 215 Holden, believed to be the first FX model commercially sold in Australia, bought by famous Australian industrialist Essington Lewis
  • an Australian flag retrieved from the ruins of the World Trade Centre, New York, following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The flag was salvaged by a police officer and presented to Australia's Consul-General in New York
  • the Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield (the Dally Messenger Shield), rugby league's first major prize (awarded 1908-1913)
  • a work by the nineteenth-century Aboriginal artist William Barak
  • the crown awarded to three decades of Miss Australia Quest winners, to feature in an upcoming Museum travelling exhibition
  • four land grants from the colony of New South Wales
  • Evonne Goolagong Cawley's Wimbledon trophies for 1971 and 1980 (singles) and 1974 (doubles); the tennis racquets she used in the 1971 and 1980 finals, and her tennis dress from the 1971 tournament
  • a silver tankard presented to AC Bannerman for the 1880 Ashes cricket tour.

A major gift

Photo in the Springfield family museum
Registration Manager Carol Cooper and Pamela and Jim Maple-Brown in the Springfield family museum.
Photo: George Serras.

In November 2004, one of the biggest and best-documented collections on the history of a major rural property was donated to the Museum. The collection is from Springfield, a large wool growing property near Goulburn, New South Wales, that had remained in the same family since it was established in the 1820s. The collection includes a range of material highlighting both the pastoral economy (for example, shearing equipment, wool samples and framed photos of stud rams) and the everyday lives of the property owners, the Faithfull and Maple-Brown families.

Following the announcement of the gift, a team of curatorial and collections staff spent several weeks at Springfield packing and documenting nearly 2000 objects. The collection was transported to the Museum's Mitchell repositories where for the first six months of 2005 it was carefully listed and prepared for valuation as part of the Government's Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) Cultural Gifts Program.

In late June 2005, Jim Maple-Brown and his sister Diana Boyd signed the Museum's Deed of Gift and the Certificate of Donation for the Springfield gift. The collection will go before the DCITA committee at its meeting in October 2005. When legal title to the collection has passed to the Museum, staff will prepare the objects for exhibition both within the permanent galleries and as part of a forthcoming exhibition on the history of the Museum's collections.

Collections policy

The quality and relevance of the Museum's collections development program is dependent on a strong foundation of policy, documentation and practice. In the course of the year the Collections Development section revised the Museum's Collections development policy (approved by Council in November 2004) and established new targeted collecting guidelines to build holdings in identified areas. New processes were developed for proposing and documenting acquisitions and work began to revise the Collections Development Framework to guide day-to-day collecting activities.

Another task was to determine priorities in collections work across the Museum. A series of workshops identified six key projects to address needs in collections acquisition, documentation, storage, conservation, and in exhibitions and public access to collections. These projects will be ongoing throughout the coming years.

The Museum strives to build collections that are nationally significant, in line with its legislative responsibilities. It seeks objects, documents, images and other materials that have rich associations and communicative power, while representing the thematic and geographic breadth of Australian history...
Collections Development policy, November 2004