Museum Victoria’s Aboriginal Advancement League hearse reactivation team

In mid 2017 Museums Victoria (MV) received a request to use the Victorian Aboriginal hearse in MV’s collection to repatriate ancient Ancestral Remains.

Having been in storage for the last 28 years, the car would require considerable mechanical work to get it roadworthy again. Removed parts were retained and the work was thoroughly documented for the future, though original components were retained and repaired where possible.

In November 2017 the hearse was transported to Canberra, and on the 20th November 2017 the hearse arrived at Lake Mungo driven by community member Daryl Pappin and in front of the community the remains of Mungo Man and 104 Ancestors were returned to their Ancestral Homeland.

This is not a ‘traditional’ conservation treatment but is a wonderful example of consultation, community engagement and giving a cultural object new meaning through conservation. The conservation and restoration work undertaken allowed the hearse to be back in the hands of its community and reincorporated into living culture at an incredibly significant time.

Melanie Raberts (Collection Manager Arts, Museum Victoria); Sarah Babister (Conservator Objects, Museum Victoria); and Neville Quick (Manager Collection Storage and Logistics, Museum Victoria) accepting the award on behalf of Museum Victoria’s Aboriginal Advancement League hearse reactivation team.