Millions of Museum objects

26 July, 2009

Curator, clock collection, Scienceworks.
Curator, clock collection, Scienceworks.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: I have heard that the Museum has millions of objects within its collections. How do you decide what to collect and where do you fit all the objects?

Answer: Museum Victoria is responsible for Victoria’s scientific and cultural collections. This means that Museum Victoria is charged by legislative law to be the official place of lodgement of the State collections of natural history (including collections of type specimens), the history of human society and the history of science and technology.

Museum Victoria has been building its collections and undertaking research for over 150 years. At most recent estimate, Museum Victoria holds some 16.6 million collection items, of which only a small percentage is on display at our Museum venues (Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum), at any one time. The Museum’s major collection and research focuses lie in the areas of Indigenous Cultures, History and Technology and the Sciences.

To help determine which objects and specimens it collects and how it cares for and manages the objects within its collections Museum Victoria has developed a set of Collection Development and Management policies and associated strategies and plans.  These documents outline the guiding principles of and main directions for the development and management of Museum Victoria’s collections. Principles include enhancing Museum expertise and capability in areas of research that have local , national and international significance, extending the ways in which communities can connect with our collections and knowledge and continuing to develop the collections as a growing resource for education and research and as a legacy for future generations.

As well as collecting and caring for objects, Museum Victoria researches, interprets, and displays its collections. These tasks add to our understanding of critical contemporary issues in science, the environment and society and add greater value and meaning to Museum Victoria collection objects.

Members of the public can access and engage with Museum Victoria’s collectionsby visiting our Museum venues, by taking a collection store tour at Scienceworks, or via the Museum Victoria website. Museum Victoria also received many request for access to collection items not currently on display, and like many other museums, Museum Victoria is making more and more of its collection items available online. Recently, the Museum made hundreds of thousands of Natural Sciences collection items directly available through the Museum Victoria website and in the coming months the Museum will also make tens of thousands of history and Technology collection items directly available through the same portal.

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