The Indigenous Cultures collections comprise internationally significant collections of indigenous art, ethnographic artefacts, archaeological items, photographs, archival documents, and film and sound recordings.
Their origins lie in the 19th century collections of the National Museum of Victoria, Industrial and Technological Museum, National Gallery of Victoria and Public Library. Material has been continually acquired throughout the 20th century by way of field collecting, donation and some significant loans.
The collection continues to be developed in the 21st century via strategic acquisitions that both complement the existing collection and push it into new areas of cultural relevance, in conjunction with Indigenous communities.
The Indigenous collections are generally defined either by geographic region or by the type of item they contain (an exception is the Donald Thomson Collection, a truly significant ethnographic collection on long-term loan to Museum Victoria).
This is done to reflect the various views of significance that these collections have for the individuals, communities and cultures from whom these collections originate, and for whom the collections continue to resonate with meaning.
See The Early Collection and Exhibition of Art Work by Aboriginal Artists, an essay on this collection from A Museum for the People: A history of Museum Victoria and its predecessors 1854-2000.