The Indigenous Cultures Department works with Indigenous peoples in Australia and the Pacific to conduct research, develop collections and present public programs relating to Indigenous peoples and cultures. Within Australia, research projects relate to bark paintings and fibrecraft in Arnhem Land, especially works in the Donald Thomson collection; material culture, memory and social change in the Cape York Peninsula region; and anthropological perspectives on the origins of the Western Desert Art Movement arising from the representation of traditional iconography using European art materials.
Research is continuing into the repatriation of cultural property and collaborative documentation projects relating to objects and images in the collections. Research is also being carried out on the museum's Fiji collection under a memorandum of understanding between Museum Victoria and the Fiji Museum.
The following topics generally inform the research directions pursued by departmental staff:
- Material culture studies with an emphasis on cultural significance and meaning of heritage material and studies in materials analysis (compositional);
- The history of collections and collectors;
- The meaning and significance of the cultural collections to Indigenous communities in Australia and the Pacific;
- Histories and cultures of indigenous peoples, particularly in Australia and the Pacific through anthropological, archaeological, historical and material culture and oral history analyses.