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Once the initial arrival of Ancestral Remains to a new facility has taken place it is likely that this area may only be used periodically as new remains come in and need to be prepared for entry into the Storage Room. Office areas may be in continual use for ongoing research, and research facilities may be elsewhere in the building or even off-site.

How this area is used at other times is not a Conservation concern unless it reduces security or introduces anything which could be a threat to the remains in the Storage Room. For example, nothing should be brought into the area that has not been checked for pests, and nothing should be kept there which could attract pests, such as starch-based packing beads. Whether or not the area is in constant use, there must be a program of regular cleaning and pest checks, particularly in the materials storage areas of the Receipt Space.

The Receipt Space may contain one or more rooms and acts as a link between the Loading Bay and the Storage Room. The Receipt Space should have entrances and exits to the outside or to other spaces in the building, as well as to the Loading Bay, to ensure the safety of staff in the case of an emergency, but it should not be a general passageway and access should be strictly controlled.

The structural design for this area should incorporate the following features:

  • Walls, floor and ceiling should be insulated.
  • Walls should have a smooth continuous surface to facilitate cleaning.
  • Floors should have a continuous surface such as welded Tarkett to facilitate cleaning. A cushioned material is desirable for the comfort of staff standing for long periods. Alternatively, high-density, foam matting could be used around the benches/tables.
  • Windows can be part of the design if desired, although privacy would be an issue with windows to the outside. Skylights with an air lock between the ceiling and the roof would be a suitable option to allow natural light.
  • An access-controlled, tight-fitting, insulated, standard door and an access-controlled, tight-fitting, insulated, sliding door should be fitted between the Loading Bay and the Receipt Space.
  • An access-controlled, tight-fitting, standard door and an access-controlled, tight-fitting, sliding door should be fitted between the Receipt Space and the Storage Room.
  • There should be a level floor running from the Loading Bay into the Receipt Space via the sliding door. If this is not possible, a floor lift or other suitable lifting apparatus should be installed in the Loading Bay.
  • Door frames should be unobstructed at the base or have faceted footings to allow smooth movement of tables and trolleys.
  • The Receipt Space will require heating, cooling and air changes for the comfort of staff. The amount of environmental adjustment could be minimised by adopting a solar passive approach to the design. The environmental conditions required for staff comfort would fit within the parameters for the Storage Room (see Section 3.2) so the anticipated, infrequent movements between the Receipt Space and Storage Room are unlikely to cause problematic environmental changes in the Store.
  • There should be an alarm system to alert staff when the door to the Loading Bay and the door to the Receipt Space are open at the same time. Depending on the time of year the flow of external air into the Receipt Space could add significantly to cost of maintaining the internal environmental parameters.
  • A wet area should be provided with toilet(s) and hands-free handbasin(s), eyewash station and paper towel dispenser. A washing machine and dryer for laundering personal protective garments could also be included in this space. The wet area should not be sited against any wall which is common to the Storage Room. This is where the first-aid box should be placed.
  • Good general coverage lighting and emergency lighting in case of power failures is especially important if there are no windows or skylights letting in natural light.
  • Electrical power points spaced around the walls and either in the floor or suspended from the ceiling allow the use of specialised lights, such as UV lamps, during examination of Ancestral Remains.
  • A separate room within the Receipt Space should be created to house a Conservation Treatment Area and to provide a space where other activities which require isolation can be carried out. It should have a tight-fitting door with independent environmental controls and ventilation. None of the air from this room should be circulated in the rest of the Receipt Space or the Storage Room. Electrical fittings in this room should be shielded and it should have water available for a fume hood and an eyewash station.
  • The Receipt Space should have either a fire suppression system or walls, floor and ceiling with a high fire rating and a VESDA detection system with back-to-base monitoring like the Storage Room.

3.6.1 Facilities required in the Ancestral Remains Receipt Space

The Receipt Space should include all the facilities necessary to prepare Ancestral Remains for safe, long-term storage and to manage the running of the Receipt Space and the Storage Room. These facilities include:

  • a space where incoming crates containing Ancestral Remains can be held while they await processing
  • benches/tables with stainless steel or marble tops where Ancestral Remains can be checked and, if necessary, laid out for assessment. These benches/tables should have adjustable height [10]
  • benches/tables with stainless steel or marble tops where Ancestral Remains can be rehoused in Conservation-standard materials for long-term storage. These benches/tables should have adjustable height and could be the same as those used for checking if appropriate cleaning takes place
  • an area or room with office workstations where Ancestral Remains can be checked against their accompanying documentation and entered into the central database. Computer terminals, the reference library, general filing cabinets, a charging station for phones and scanners and printers, including label printers should be included here
  • a storage area, possibly a separate, access-controlled room, for hard copy documentation associated with the Ancestral Remains. These records should be kept in fire-proof, lockable filing cabinets and plan cabinets (some remains are accompanied by X-rays which do not fit into standard filing cabinets) and the environmental conditions in the Receipt Space would be suitable for their long-term care
  • deep, powder-coated metal shelving for storing Conservation packing materials such as boxes, tissue, zip-lock bags, plastic tubs, cotton tape, etc. These could be held in a room of their own if desired (see Section 3.4 for dimensions of standard boxes), along with materials such as flags used during repatriation ceremonies
  • an area where trolleys, pallet jacks and any other manually powered equipment used with the Ancestral Remains can be parked. Specialised lights and magnifiers on stands could also be held here when not in use
  • facilities for photographing Ancestral Remain. The NMA does not photograph Ancestral Remains unless requested by Communities, but if a National Resting Place wishes to do so then these facilities would need to be included in the Receipt Space
  • a cupboard where tools and cleaning equipment can be kept. This should be provided with power points/recharging station to enable battery-operated tools such as drills and handheld vacuum cleaners to be recharged
  • a cupboard for personal protective clothing
  • fire extinguishers mounted on the walls
  • an area for a container to hold contaminated waste waiting for collection. This container should be on wheels
  • a freezer large enough to hold an articulated and/or mummified individual. This could be used for pest treatments or, in the case of a water emergency, to freeze and hold tissue remains or documents until they can be transferred to an external facility for drying out
  • a disaster-response bin.

3.6.2 Conservation Treatment/Isolation Room

This room should be physically and environmentally separated from the rest of the Receipt Space. As such it can serve both for Conservation treatments, including those that require Ancestral Remains to be isolated for short periods, and as the area where the sealed cabinet(s) containing fluid-preserved remains are held long-term. These cabinets should stand on a drip tray which can accommodate the volume of fluid in the cabinet in case of spills or breakages. [11]

The room should have the following design features:

  • walls and door that close the area off from the rest of the Receipt Space
  • walls with a smooth continuous surface to facilitate cleaning
  • floors with a continuous surface such as welded Tarkett to facilitate cleaning. A cushioned material is desirable for the comfort of staff standing for long periods, or high-density, foam matting could be used around the benches/tables
  • entry that is access controlled for entry only. Exiting should not be controlled
  • shielded electrical fittings
  • a window in the wall facing into the rest of the Receipt Space to allow a single staff member working in there to be seen by other staff to ensure their safety
  • independent air-conditioning and ventilation. The air from the room should be vented to the outside, and no air from here should be circulated in the rest of the Receipt Space or Storage Room
  • a floor drain to deal with spills.

The room should contain:

  • a fume hood of a size able to hold an articulated or mummified individual
  • a cabinet for UV treatment of mould. The fume hood could double for this purpose if it was fitted with a stand to hold the UV light and a black-out blind which could be drawn during treatments
  • a stainless steel or marble topped bench/table with height adjustment
  • space for one or more sealable cabinets to house Ancestral Remains held in either known or unknown fluid preservatives
  • a cabinet to store protective equipment including a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter
  • a cabinet to store packaging material required to prepare Ancestral Remains for pest treatment in the freezer
  • a vented chemical storage cabinet.

3.6.3 Sterile Area

The specifications for a Sterile Area to be used for the extraction of DNA are outside the scope of this report. Information on what is required could be provided by the Genomics Centre, the ANU, the CSIRO or the Federal Police. Given that DNA analysis is a rapidly developing field of study, the best approach at this point would be to consult those working in the field to identify what the structural requirements are for an extraction lab and incorporate these into the plans for a Sterile Area. To take advantage of the most up-to-date technological developments available, the fit-out should be left until a National Resting Place is built.


[10] Recently all Ancestral Remains returned to the NMA Keeping Place have been individuated. However, there have been cases in the past where remains have had to be re-associated almost from scratch. In instances where, on examination, the remains proved to have been poorly individuated, the assistance of an expert was required to clarify the situation.

[11] Rehousing fluid-preserved specimens requires both unusual technical skill and specialised equipment. It is assumed here that this type of treatment will not be carried out in-house. If this is not the case, then a wet-area workshop, including a water deioniser, and a perspex welding facility would need to be established along with a chemical store for new chemicals and storage space for used solution awaiting disposal.

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