At the 12th meeting of the Cultural Ministers Council today, Ministers agreed to form a Heritage Collections Council to ensure Australia's national heritage collection becomes more accessible to all Australians.
The new Council will build on the work of the Heritage Collections Committee (HCC), a partnership between Government and the museums sector, which finishes its work at the end of this year.
Over the last three years the HCC established Australian Museums Online, an Internet site with information on over 830 museums and gallery collections throughout Australia. It also developed a National Conservation and Preservation Policy for Movable Cultural Heritage and a multimedia package of conservation, training and resource materials.
The Ministers agree that the Heritage Collections Council will work to achieve specific outcomes by the year 2001.
The new Council will place 80% of Australia's heritage collections on the Australian Museums Online Internet site; identify significant Australian heritage items overseas for repatriation; implement a national conservation strategy; and provide assistance for a coordinated program of thematic exhibitions (both online and in situ) telling Australia's story.
The Council's emphasis is on developing a collaborative approach between the Commonwealth, States and museum, libraries and archives sector. This will include identifying collections of significance that are at risk, providing assistance for their preservation, and developing nationally agreed guidelines and standards for museum and collection management.
The Council's primary focus is to broaden community access to the nation's diverse museum collections including art museums, natural science museums, archives, historic shipwreck relics and Aboriginal keeping places.
Council membership comprises representatives of the three tiers of government and the museums sector, under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, State Governments and museums sector will jointly fund the council, which is expected to operate with an $800,000 per year budget.