Policies and procedures

Policy No.
Collection Management
Authoring Organisational Unit
Office Staff - Cultural Precinct
Date Approved
Next Review Date
Approving Body

The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Acquisitions for the Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

The Berndt Museum conserves, protects, contextualises and promotes selected Aboriginal and Torres Strait art and cultural heritage collections including (visual art, artefacts, archives, photographs and audio-visual recordings) by way of exhibition, research, teaching, publication and community engagement. This activity extends to the Berndt Museum's collections from Melanesia and South-East Asia.

The aim and mission of the Berndt Museum is to be a centre for research excellence, education, outreach, and to progress its position as a global leader in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Culture.

The Berndt Museum houses a diverse and interconnected range of collection materials that is cared for and managed in accordance with Museum and Archive best practice and cultural protocols, and is renowned as a collection of national significance. The acquisition policy sets out the principles for ensuring that this status is maintained by way of collecting works of artistic quality and cultural significance, and by building on, or addressing existing gaps in the collection in areas identified as important (for example, if it emerges that material, or a regional area, is underrepresented).


In this policy and any associated procedures:

the University means The University of Western Australia

acquisition means purchasing works from, or bequeathed or donated by individuals, or purchased from or donated by corporate institutions, commercial galleries and auction houses, or transferred from and exchanged with government and statutory bodies.

Works of art include paintings, watercolours and drawings, artists' sketchbooks, prints (including posters), photographs, videos, sculptures, ceramics, 3D installations and craft work.

contemporary art refers to art of the present time.

cultural material is a collection item that includes manifestations of material culture embedded with cultural knowledge, and can also include works of art, photographs, sound, film and archive records.

Policy statement:

1 General principles

1.1 The Berndt Museum at the University is committed to:

a. promoting and researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Culture by way of exhibition, research, teaching and publication, within and where appropriate, external to the university;

b. making its collection available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people, families, communities, students, researchers, art historians, curators and artists for the purpose of study, research, exhibition, publication, and as a teaching aid;

c. developing the themes and subject areas clearly established in the collections while maintaining the selective and unique attributes of the Berndt Museum;

d. protecting and preserving the Berndt Museum Collections as one collection in its entirety and to not disperse through sale, reassignment or disposal - in accordance with the Ronald and Catherine Berndt Deed of Gift, dated 1980, and the last Will and Testament of Catherine Berndt, 1994.

1.2 The Berndt Museum acquisition activities complies with the terms and principles of the following act, convention and protocols:

a. The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986;

b. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property;

c. ICOM Code of Professional Ethics;

d. Significance 2.0 a guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage collections; and

e. Australia Council for the Arts Protocols for producing Indigenous Australian visual arts .

1.3 The Berndt Museum heeds the regulations and procedures of the Commonwealth Government's Cultural Gifts Program.

1.4 To maintain integrity of the collections, the Berndt Museum liaises and works closely with the University Art Collection and the Cruthers Collection of Women's Art to ensure that no duplication or competition arises relating to proposed acquisitions.

2 Methods of acquisition

2.1 The Berndt Museum acquires material by way of:

a) making purchases following a recommendation by the Berndt Museum Associate Director and Curator, upon negotiation of a mutually agreeable price by the Berndt Museum and the vendor.

b) arranging for commissions for exhibition and/or acquisition.

c) accepting donations on condition that they align to the current collections and that the Berndt Museum has the capacity to care for those donations within its available resources. Where donations are accepted, the Berndt Museum credits the donor in its future exhibitions and publications, unless otherwise advised by the donor.

d) processing the transfer of donations with a view to legitimising the Berndt Museum's ownership of the transferred item.

3 General acquisition

3.1 Recommendations on all proposed acquisitions are made by The Berndt Museum staff, and in so doing must ensure that the collection of:

a. works of art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists occurs from throughout Australia.

b. items of qualitative depth and/or significance preserves the unique character of the existing and expanding collections.

c. works that develop the Areas and Themes of Collection occurs in accordance with section 3 of this policy.

d. works must be in a good state of preservation (not works that have been largely restored or reworked), unless those works are essential to enhance the collection.

e. works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists includes those who were not acknowledged in their lifetime, or those whose work has slipped from public view.

f. works of high artistic quality by artists in the early stages of their career is maintained.

g. works is free from any legal, moral or financial impediment.

h. human anatomical or ancestral remains is prohibited.

i. archival material includes photographs and audio-visual that is relevant to and expands on existing collection materials.

j. works involving a matter of trust maintains confidentiality around any acquisition information and records.

4 Area and Themes of Collection Acquisition

4.1 Areas of Collection include:

i. Works of art and cultural material created by or relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, histories and communities.

ii. Works of art and cultural material created by or relating to Melanesian and South-East Asian artists, histories and communities.

iii. Archival collections, including photographs, digital, film and sound relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

4.2 Themes of Collection

4.2.1 In collecting in the various areas listed in 3,1, emphasis is placed on the following themes where relevant:

a. Stories about people and place;

b. Country, communities and waters;

c. Politics and political action.

5 Responsibility of the implementation of the Berndt Museum Acquisition Policy

5.1 The responsibility for implementing this policy lies with the Berndt Museum Associate Director who reports to the University of Western Australia Cultural Collections Board.

5.2 At all times the University ensures that the Berndt Museum is fully consulted with on potential decisions around acquisitions, and that the Berndt Museum's Associate Director is consulted with and agrees to the proposed acquisitions in line with the principles set out in this policy.

Related forms: (Link)

TRIM File No:


Contact position:

Chief Cultural Officer

Related Policies or legislation: