Conservation in Australia, Past Present and Future: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference, 19 – 21 October 2011 Canberra
Reviewing the history of the conservation programmes at the Australian Museum over a 40 year period, it becomes clear that it is not a linear development, but rather a series of expansions and contractions. Resources devoted to research increase and diminish. Engagement with indigenous communities grows and dwindles. The emphasis placed on revenue earning waxes and wanes due to several factors. The reasons for these period of growth and shrinkage seem to be combination of management, turn-over, structural changes, available resources and external political trends. recording of broad trends within an institution allows periodic reviews of strengths and weaknesses.
Recently the Materials Conservation Unit was emptied to allow the first major refit in 23 years. Relocation all the records and project files brought to light a wealth of old information that is not currently associated with the collection database. Loss of corporate knowledge due to staff turnover, changes in filing structures and changes of office technology results in knowledge previously gained not being easily accessible. Similar conservation and research questions come up periodically and, without knowledge of previous research, work may be duplicated rather than enhanced. Consolidating paper and electronic records relating to research and collection items in a form with will survive the next technological innovations remains a challenge for the present and future.