Caring for collections across Australia

Our heritage is represented by a vast array of cultural material, from established national icons holding pride of place in major museums and galleries, to everyday items such as household appliances or newspapers which carry meaning for local communities or families. Yet so often the links to our heritage are tenuous because the objects which represent our culture are in danger of decay. However, there is a lot we can do to protect valued objects and collections and so prolong the life of our cultural heritage.
reCollections: Caring for Collections Across Australia provides practical advice and guidance designed to help the reader care for their heritage. reCollections explains how to apply preventive conservation techniques to cultural objects and collections. Preventive conservation optimises the environmental conditions in which objects and collections are housed. Controlling light and ultraviolet radiation, humidity and temperature, biological pests, and dust and pollutants helps to prevent damage and decay to cultural material. Preventive conservation also means ensuring that good handling, transportation, storage and display techniques are used at all times. Applying preventive methods to the care of cultural artefacts and collections can prolong and protect their life for current and future generations of Australians.
While reCollections provides conservation information about the care of cultural objects and collections, it is important to recognise that all except the simplest conservation treatments should be undertaken by trained conservators. Active conservation treatment is a response to the damage of cultural artefacts, a highly skilled field which often involves the use of chemicals and complicated technical procedures. Unless performed with a thorough knowledge of appropriate techniques and with the right equipment and materials, conservation treatments can do more harm than good to the objects being worked upon, and can be hazardous to the people performing the work. Conservation treatments should only be conducted by, or on the explicit advice of, a trained conservator.
To complement the preventive conservation advice contained in the volumes Damage and Decay and Handling, Transportation, Storage and Display, reCollections supplies detailed information concerning the care of some of the most common cultural materials. These range from the paper and other materials on which so much of Australia’s cultural history may be seen, to special considerations in caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural artefacts. In addition, modern practices concerning the management of collections and of the people who look after those collections are outlined.
© 2018 by The University of Melbourne. Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This publication is based on the original work reCollections © Commonwealth of Australia 1998.

Increasing the conservation skills of people who care for cultural collections is an important factor in protecting heritage. 
reCollections has been developed for use principally by non-conservators who are working with cultural collections. 
The goal is to promote excellence in the management, care and provision of cultural collections to reflect our diversity.

Principal Partners

Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation

Ministry For The Arts

Project Partners

The Australian Institute For The Conservation Of Cultural Material

Museums Australia


A note to readers

reCollections: Caring for Distributed Collections, has been written by practicing conservators and is intended to provide a sound guide for the preventive care of cultural items. Active conservation treatment of cultural material should only be undertaken by, or on the advice of, a trained conservator. Before relying on any of the material in this guide, users should check its accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes and should obtain appropriate professional advice. If in doubt, consult a conservator.

To obtain the names of accredited practicing conservators who are in a position to meet your particular conservation requirements contact the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (Inc.) a national organisation for conservators and people interested in the preservation of cultural material.