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The Australian Museum greatly appreciates the many kind offers we receive each year from people looking to donate items for our cultural collections. Unfortunately, with over 18.5 million items in our scientific and cultural collections the space and curatorial capacity we have for new collection items is very limited. New acquisitions are subject to a rigorous and extensive process of analysis and review to ensure they represent the best possible fit with our existing collections, public programs and research priorities.

Please note that NSW Aboriginal archaeological material is protected under the NSW Parks and Wildlife Act.

While the Australian Museum cultural collections include historic objects and art from around the world, we now focus on three specific areas for acquisitions to our cultural collections:

  • Contemporary Pacific. New acquisitions will explore a seemingly universal theme for Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian peoples: the impact of globalisation, urbanisation and the fault lines that can open up between traditional cultural identity and contemporary popular culture and modernity,
  • Contemporary Indigenous Australia - Provides the Museum with an opportunity to celebrate and reflect the ongoing dynamism of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. From Tasmania to Torres Strait, collecting will reflect local cultural traditions, how cultural expression is continually refreshed to make a powerful commentary on issues relating to identity, politics and social injustice, and pertinent issues within popular culture expressed by contemporary Indigenous artists and practitioners, and
  • Aboriginal NSW - NSW has the largest Aboriginal population in Australia and a unique contemporary Aboriginal arts and cultural sector. As a consequence, the Australian Museum will continue to prioritise the acquisition of both contemporary and historical Indigenous art, material culture and archival material from NSW.

Once you offer a donation to the Australian Museum cultural collection, we will commence what can be a very lengthy and detailed process of review and assessment. We will assess not only whether the object fits within the three acquisition priorities, but a whole range of factors including:

  • Service potential (the potential for new material to enhance the Museum’s services to stakeholders, whether through community and public engagement and/or research),
  • Contextual data (Priority is given to collecting objects where the origin, history and other contextual data can be thoroughly documented),
  • Legal title of the donor (including any ethical issues and contemporary cultural sensitivities associated with the object as per the Commonwealth government’s best practice acquisition guidelines),
  • Conservation capacity. (the Museum does not acquire items for the cultural collections unless it expects to have the curatorial resources necessary to provide for their long term care and preservation),
  • Originality or rarity (preference will generally be given to objects or collections that are unique or relatively rare, unusual or particularly fine example of their type).
  • Community engagement (where relevant, the Museum will ensure that any collecting be done in collaboration with the relevant community, allowing them to be fully engaged with the acquisition process).

In addressing these issues, we may contact you further to ask questions about the object and how it was obtained. The need to assess and document potential acquisitions in detail also means that we cannot normally give an instant response to your offer: unless otherwise discussed with you, we will aim to make a decision on whether or not to take up your offer of donation within eight weeks of receiving your offer.

Please note that the decision whether or not to acquire an item does not hinge solely on its artistic or cultural significance, but on a whole range of issues that may be specific to the Australian Museum. Where appropriate, we may be able to assist you in identifying alternative collecting institutions that may be a better match for your proposed donation.

To discuss your offer of a donation to the Australian Museum collections, please contact the Ask an Expert team and include a photograph of the object.