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The National Museum of Australia is temporarily closed to the public until further notice. Read more in our coronavirus statement

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The National Museum of Australia’s core collection of Australian history is the National Historical Collection. This rich and diverse collection of Australian historical material is held in trust for the nation. The Museum researches, collects and represents three inter-related themes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories
  • Australian history and society since 1788
  • people’s interaction with the Australian environment.

Many of the 210,000 objects in the Museum’s collection relate to more than one theme. All of them help to bring Australian stories to life.

Make a collection offer

The Museum collects objects that are linked to key moments, people and places in Australia’s history.

Frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Museum's collection, donations and more.

Search our collection

Browse the Museum's collection online via our Collection Explorer. New records and images are added regularly and existing information is being enhanced.

National Historical Collection

The National Historical Collection contains one of the world’s largest collections of bark paintings and the holdings of the former Australian Institute of Anatomy, including the heart of racehorse Phar Lap. The collection features historical vehicles, material related to Australian politics and politicians, more than 300 convict tokens, and an extensive collection of Aboriginal breastplates.

The National Historical Collection is a relatively young collection by international standards. It consists of objects acquired by transfer from other government agencies, through donation and bequest, and by purchase.

Two foundation documents have guided the Museum’s development: the Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections (Pigott Report, 1975) and the National Museum of Australia Act 1980.

The Museum also develops and maintains supporting archival and educational collections. These collections are important resources that provide additional information and historical context for the National Historical Collection.

Explore collection highlights

Take a deep dive into some of our most interesting objects in collection highlights.

Collection symposiums

Hear expert speakers explore the history and evolution of museum and gallery collections.

Collections 2010 series
  • Last updated: 14 May 2010
  • 12 programs
Speakers examine developments in the assessment, storage and conservation of museum and gallery collections.
Collections 2009 series
  • Last updated: 27 March 2009
  • 14 programs
Speakers at the From Collections to Exhibitions symposium discuss the nature and uses of collection material and objects for display.
Collections 2008 series
  • Last updated: 30 May 2008
  • 4 programs
The Material Histories: Objects as Sources? symposium considers the different ways curators, archaeologists, historians and anthropologists approach physical evidence. Includes many examples of the ways material culture is being used in museums and galleries.
Collections 2006 series
  • Last updated: 21 March 2006
  • 9 programs
The Collecting for a Nation symposium marked the 25th anniversary of the Act which brought about the National Museum of Australia and its National Historical Collection. Speakers share the sometimes idiosyncratic, but always interesting, history of collectors and collecting long before the Museum opened.
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