NEWCASTLE REGIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION POLICY 1. OBJECTIVE 2. BACKGROUND 3. COLLECTION HISTORY 4. POLICY STRUCTURE 5. SELECTION CRITERIA 6. PARENT THEMES 7. SPECIFIC THEMES 8. CONCLUSION 1. OBJECTIVE The Newcastle Regional Museum (NRM) will acquire, conserve, research, display and actively interpret the region's environmental, technical and cultural material, thereby enhancing the knowledge of and respect for our surroundings. The NRM will undertake scholarly research into its collection and energetically disseminate resultant information for the benefit of the community. A high standard of service to the public, scholarship, and management of the collection is paramount to this objective. 2. BACKGROUND The NRM has previously identified its collection and permanent display programme around the subject headings of "The Land", "The Industry", and "The People" (internal discussion paper 13/6/1989), briefing paper, "The Way Forward", August, 1989 and "A Blueprint for Progress", undated). The NRM's self-imposed brief is thus to interpret through its displays and collections, the natural history, science and technology and social history of the region. The "region" has previously been defined as the 13 shires of the local government region as listed; Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Scone, Merriwa, Dungog, Gloucester, Great Lakes, Taree and Port Stephens. This wedding of three broad subject areas to this defined region is an appropriately ambitious objective for the NRM as its successful implementation will result in a highly integrated collection and display programme. That implementation does, however, demand a selective well-defined collection policy. It is, therefore, the intention of this document to seek to define such a policy. 3. COLLECTION HISTORY The Museum's collection is a result of two acquisition regimes. Material acquired and numbered prior to 1986 is derived from the old Newcastle Local History Museum (Brown Street Museum) which held a disparate group of objects collected between 1968 and 1984. The greatest strengths within this collection are the personal effects of "notable" Novocastrians, material from the Aboriginal and convict eras, significant pieces of domestic technology, and hand tools. Almost all of this material has local provenance or use. Regrettably, during the transition between Brown Street and the present museum site a number of objects were lost while others were found to be at other locations such at the Newcastle Maritime Museum and the Lambton Mechanics Institute. Accurate lists of the current locations of these objects as well as missing items are currently held by the NRM. Between 1986 and 1988 the staff of the NRM acquired material for the collection at an accelerated pace. The acquisition rate during 1987, in particular, was very high with 781 objects being registered into the collection. The haste to establish the collection in time for the Museum's opening in May 1988 is apparent with some of this material being in poor condition of questionably historical value and in a few cases undocumented. The strengths within the collection from this period include the "Co-op Store" related objects, some early mine survey equipment in excellent condition and, to a lesser extent, bottles and other associated objects from the Castlemaine and Wood Brothers Brewery found during the restoration of the museum building. In addition the Tuggerah Military Collection was acquired during this period. Since 1990 collection has been more measured and attention has been paid toward documenting the existing collection rather than acquiring new material. During this period collection has also been passive with the NRM responding to offers of donation from the public. Most of this material has been tactfully rejected along the grounds of poor condition, lack of documentation or irrelevance to the region (technologically or by association). It is the intention that the NRM will become more active in the field of collection targeting specific subject areas for attention following the criteria outlined in this document. 4. POLICY STRUCTURE i. This policy is based upon the commitment to collect material for both exhibition and research. The NRM is interested in objects that have both display and research potential and will seek to establish a collection that contains levels of information relevant to the researcher and casual museum visitor alike. ii. The collection of the NRM will be representative and thematic. The concept of a "catch all" collection is totally impractical and intellectually unsound. Where original objects are unobtainable for exhibitions, replicas, models, photographs or other graphic components may be considered as acceptable alternatives. Conversely, an artefact will not be considered valuable or useful simply because of its age. iii. Care will be taken to avoid thematic duplication which other local museums. Thus, institutions such as the Newcastle Maritime Museum and Glenbawn Museum of Rural Life, will not find their subject area threatened by the NRM. Nonetheless, the regional focus of the NRM must be maintained which may, inevitably, lead to some thematic overlap. iv. Care will, likewise, be taken to avoid duplicating material gathered by the Local History Section of the Newcastle Region Public Library and other local libraries. v. In determining the collection policy, the main concern must be to translate the NRM's guiding concepts into objects consciously selected for their capacity to build up a composite picture of essential themes. vi. This document does not broach display details nor does it discuss the issue of travelling exhibitions that will continue to be a large component of the NRM's display programme. 5. SELECTION CRITERIA Objects will be considered for collection only when they adequately satisfy at least one of the following criterion; i. Documentation: Every object acquired for the collection must be supported by clear documentation that may, in part, define its historical significance or association. Verbal information provided by the donor detailing the origin of the object, how and who used it plus a chronological profile of its subsequent history is suitable but should be independently confirmed. Written and published information is preferable. ii. Physical character: Every acquired object must be complete to the extent that an observer could visualise a past custom or activity with which the object was associated. It is imperative that the condition of the acquired object be rated as good to excellent as items of poor condition will only be an expensive burden on the NRM in the future and are, consequently, of dubious historical integrity. iii. Historic association: Objects will be sought that have a proven association with a known individual, some event, or period in the history of the Hunter Region that is considered by the NRM as significant. iv. Educational value: The object must contain information or be associated with information that raises an understanding of an aspect or aspects of the history of the region. v. Rarity: The NRM is interested in rare or uncommon objects that relate to the region along defined lines. For example a rare object that fulfils the criterion relating to regional significance will be collected in preference to a more common item. This does not necessarily mean that the NRM is not interested in abundant objects. vi. Representability: The NRM is also interested in acquiring individual pieces as representatives of a range of objects that demonstrate principal characteristics of a range of human activities relevant to the region's past or present. vii. Aesthetic value: The NRM is interested in objects that demonstrate an aesthetic quality that is valued by the community or cultural group. viii. Social value: The NRM is interested in collecting objects that are valued by the community for their religious, cultural, spiritual, educational or social associations. ix. Technological / creative value: The NRM is interested in collecting objects that demonstrate a degree of technical or creative achievement for their time and that were developed within the region. x. Objects will not be collected because they are old, strange, unusual or have doubtful associations or promote nostalgic or sentimental responses. xi. Objects will be collected by donation or purchase. There will be no long-term or "permanent" loans. Short and medium-term loans will be accepted from time to time but only in association with specific temporary exhibitions. xii. The NRM will only receive donations upon receipt of a deed of gift (Gift Acknowledgment Form) signed by the donor or donor's agent in the presence of a witness. The form will be legally binding and the donor will forfeit all right and title of the item so given to the NRM. xiii. Objects collected will include both historic and contemporary materials. The NRM will collect objects that are three dimensional but will also gather some paper based records such as diaries, photographs and certificates as support material to collected objects. As previously stated, care will be taken to avoid duplication with the Local History Section of the Newcastle Region Public Library in achieving this objective. xiv. The collection of data relevant to the defined themes is considered relevant by the NRM. 6. PARENT THEMES As well as adopting specific themes within Newcastle's history for collection and interpretation it is vital that certain other issues are represented within these themes. Hence, "parent" or interlocking themes will be introduced to act as welding devices interfusing and unifying this broad collection. Issues contained within the parent themes span Newcastle society at all levels and therefore would be marginalised by allocation to one time or activity. Topics that fall under this category include; i. Migration and Settlement: The Hunter Valley is a microcosm of Australia's cultural diversity. Since the first Anglo-Celtic immigrants arrived in the Hunter two hundred years ago peoples with widely differing cultural backgrounds have been establishing homes, raising families and finding work in the Hunter community. In particular, the influx of southern European migrants to the region after World War 2, and recently, Asian immigration has changed the population significantly. It is the intention of the NRM to reflect, in its collection, these influences and changes where possible. Possible objects for collection: Personal effects, tools, recipes / menus, games, diaries, clothes. Data detailing migrant numbers, source countries, and other information specific to the Hunter region will be gathered from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. ii. Women: Newcastle is stereotypically viewed as a "man's town", dominated by men involved in heavy industry and engineering. In reality Newcastle and the Hunter Valley have been extensively influenced by women especially in the spheres of health, education, retail, sport and increasingly politics. Women's traditional contribution as home makers will also be emphasised with the different eras, where possible. Possible objects for collection: Sporting equipment, domestic technology, clothes, personal effects. iii. Aborigines: The Aboriginal language groups who once populated the Hunter Valley have experienced immediate and severe cultural disintegration since the arrival of white people. The collection will aim to document their downfall from an independent society, through their stages of increasing dependence on the dominant culture. Every effort will be made to document the recent burgeoning self-pride and renewed identity in modern, local Koori society. The NRM will not seek to acquire traditional clothing, tools and personal effects given the successful role being performed in this area by Aboriginal cultural centres and keeping places as well as perceived resentment towards museums for their collection methods of traditional material in past years. Possible objects for collection: Mission related memorabilia, sporting, personal effects, material gathered from authorised archaeological digs. iv. Environmental Issues: The impact of people and industry on the natural environment has been profound. For example, the physical shape of the harbour and entrance has been dramatically altered. Moreover, the impact of coal mining and steel making on the valley has been overwhelming. The current environmental dilemmas of waste disposal, air and marine pollution, and the effect of chemical fertilisers are some of the greatest challenges facing the community today. The collection, where possible, will be developed to reflect these changes to the natural environment as well as its current threats. Possible objects for collection: Pollution measuring and minimising equipment, samples of degraded air, water, soil, banners, badges from local protest groups, advertising paraphernalia associated with keeping the local area clean. Data will also be gathered from the State Pollution Control Commission and other pollution monitoring authorities. 7. SPECIFIC THEMES The primary themes around which the collection will develop are as follows: i. Coal: The all pervading influence of coal from pre-historic to contemporary times is a unifying theme covering the environmental, technological and social/cultural spheres of the region. Coal was the raison d'être for white settlement in Newcastle in 1797 and has been the dominant subsequent influence. Since that time the opening of new coal mines throughout the Hunter has precipitated the movement to those mines resulting in towns, affiliated industry and complex social networks. The focus on coal allows the NRM to collect around and interpret topics including the formation of coal, changing technology associated with coal mining, working conditions, mine safety, the rise of trade unionism, work force demographics, domestic life and transportation. The collection will reflect the individuals that worked at the mines through their tools (manager, foreman, miner, surveyor) as well as the family members associated with coal mining. Notable individuals such as James Fletcher ("The Miner's Advocate") and early mining magnates, brothers John and Alexander Brown can be highlighted through the judicious use of selected objects. The collection will include the following objects: mining, tools, mine rescue equipment, mine survey equipment, safety equipment (i.e. methanometers), union tickets, miners' cards, office equipment, photographs, mine signage, personal effects (i.e. lunch box, playing cards, posters, diaries) domestic equipment and clothing. ii. Other Hunter Valley Industry: The Coal industry and its infrastructure allowed for the development of parallel heavy industry in the Hunter region. Selected material will be collected around these industries to indicate the diversity of the regional economic base. The NRM can never expect to fully interpret all the local industry nor collect extensively in any one area especially given the size of many objects associated with heavy industry and the expense generated by their necessary conservation. Based on existing material within the collection, supporting documentation, established display objectives, national significance, and a perceived public interest the following industries are proposed for collection: Power generation Steel manufacture and smelting (with emphasis on BHP) Small machinery workshops (pattern making and foundries) Engineering (with emphasis on Goninan's) Pottery works The Hunter vineyards Gold mining at Copeland Timber getting The emphasis will again be on the various achievements, environmental impact, and people involved with these particular regional specific industries. iii. The Natural Environment: The Hunter Valley has a rich diversity of floral and faunal zones ranging from Alpine to Marine. While the NRM cannot collect definitively in all these areas it does intend to feature the environmental framework of the region in its displays and will therefore only accept donations of accurately provenanced complete and entire collections of local floral or faunal specimens. The NRM will thus not seek to build floral or faunal collections from individual specimens. This decision is confirmed by the knowledge that the Australian Museum, Sydney, already holds substantial specimens of regional fauna. iv. Topics for NRM interpretation which may be supported by donated natural history collections include: The alpine zone including the prehistoric Antarctic Beech forests of Barrington Tops The uplands The valley floor Lakes and marshlands Littoral zones The marine environment v. White contact and the convict period (1788-1823): The founding of "Kingstown" by the British Government as a penal settlement extracting coal heralded phenomenal changes to the Hunter Valley that would occur with alarming speed. During this period the Aborigines were to become completely subjugated, cut from their land and left to re-adapt to the dominant system while Newcastle was run as a military camp. The likelihood of building a detailed collection from this period is improbable but the objective must be maintained Possible objects: Aboriginal breast plates, leg irons, clothing, tools, weapons, uniforms, personal effects. vi. Rituals and belief in the Hunter: The Hunter Valley has an apparent predominance of church related and vocationally oriented groups and societies. Many of these functioning albeit with changed objectives and emphases. Groups such as Mechanics Institutes, Masonic Societies, Rechabites and Ancient Order of Foresters championed moral virtue and sober living thus providing a unique window into attitudes and social values now changed. Moreover, the study of this area provides a potential welter of objects to give both collection and display a rich material base. Possible objects: Ceremonial vestments, illuminated addresses, promotional material. vii. Sport, Leisure, Entertainment: The Hunter region may be said to typify "traditional" Australian interests covered by this theme. The immediacy of the sea has lured Novocastrians into beach and ocean sports and hobbies to a point where the community exhibits considerable skill at a variety of pursuits. Surfing, swimming, sailing, life-saving, water-skiing, sunbathing, beach jogging, power boat racing, wind surfing and diving are all popular within the community and have a rich history. Moreover, "traditional" sports and leisure activities are also widely practised. The NRM has an opportunity to collect and interpret some of these activities. This collection will be selective focusing on the range and impact of these activities on the community over time. The NRM will not seek to establish a trophy gallery but will work with the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame to establish a database on all local sports people who excelled at local, national, and international sporting competition. Entertainment in the Hunter has also been a dominant social past time with theatre, film, music, community singing, and shopping being notable activities. The NRM has the opportunity to collect material relating to many of these activities. Possible objects: Products, advertising, oral histories, music sheets from community singing at the City Hall, shopping bags, furniture and fittings from popular cafes and theatres, personal effects from local performers. viii. The Castlemaine & Wood Bros. Brewery: The building that houses the NRM is an historic Newcastle landmark. During its restoration throughout the late 1980's several tools and bottles were unearthed and are now housed within the NRM collection. Given this collection base and the display objective to fully interpret the building and its former role it is proposed to collect widely around the brewery theme. Moreover, such a collection would also give an insight into the history of beer making and the social attitudes towards its consumption. This would also tie in with the collection of memorabilia from the temperance movement which moved to abolish the success during the 1880's and 1890's. Possible objects: Testing equipment, bottles and glasses (relevant to the brewery), advertising media, brewery tools and office equipment. 8. CONCLUSION Through the implementation of this policy and in conjunction with scholarly research, the NRM collection will become a homogeneous group of objects accurately reflecting a past (and present) of the Newcastle and Hunter region. Through its judicious display and research the collection will combine to inform both our regional audience and visitors from further afield about this past. It is an ever present objective to place the distinctive features of the region into context with the experience of the rest of Australia, thus enabling the NRM to accurately define selected aspects of the natural history, science and technology, and social history of our region.