University museum and collections occupy a special place in museums and heritage. These museums and collections hold a significant part of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage but its care and conservation have been declining in recent years due to the change of directionand restructuring occurring in the university sector. These issues include changing roles anduse of collections, deaccessioning or destruction, lack of resources and formation of a strong identity (Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee 1996, Yerbury, 2001). Solutions to these issues often take a top down approach with recommendations aimed at executives and management personnel. The unique position of these museums and collections in universities also poses a set of challenges and issue in its proper care and conservation.
At the University of Canberra, a grassroots effort is taking place where heritage and conservations students, working together with the custodians of the museums and collections formed the UC Collections Group where students are involved in the care, engagement and conservation of the university’s material heritage. Traditional roles and use of university museums and collections have been renewed and revived through the work of students in bringing together these museums and collections to strengthen the university’s history and heritage. This paper will explore three key issues. Firstly the preservation and care of university museums and collections and how these museums and collections are re-engaged to strengthen university identity and heritage. Secondly it will explore the use of university museums and collections to teach heritage conservation and collection management. Lastly it will highlight the need for further research into the care and conservation of university museums and collections, and this grassroots effort can achieve a dual purpose of preserving tertiary educational heritage and satisfying the need for real life experience for student conservators.
• Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. University Museums Review Committee 1996, Cinderella collections: university museums & collections in Australia: the report of the University Museums Review Committee, Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, Canberra.
• Yerbury D., 2001, “The Cinderella Collections: An Australian Fairy Story”, in Managing University Museums, OECD, Paris, pp 55-67.
Hakim wears many cardigans. He is a horticulturist, curator, crafter, heritage enthusiast, emerging conservator, a lifelong learner (still a student) and occasionally a general nuisance. His interest lies in the natural sciences and their collections, youth engagement in heritage, university museums and collections, and crocheting.