University of South Australia Art Collections and Museums: Policy and Protocols for Acquisition and Management of University Collections and Museums


DATE: September 2006



CROSS REFERENCES: UniSA Art Collections Policy: Acquisitions and Management of University Art Works



The University of South Australia will support and enrich teaching and research programs on campus and provide a resource for the wider community by the establishment of Collections and Museums.

Collections and Museums may only be established following formal approval by the Vice Chancellor.


The Museums Australia Constitution (2002) defines a 'museum' as an institution with the following characteristics:

“A museum helps people understand the world by using objects and ideas to interpret the past and present and explore the future. A museum preserves and researches collections, and makes objects and information accessible in actual and virtual environments”

Museums are established in the University’s interest as permanent entities that contribute long-term value to the community.

The Constitution defines a collection in the following way:

A collection is an organised assemblage of selected material evidence of human activity or the natural environment, accompanied by associated information. As well as objects, scientific specimens or works of art held within a University building, a collection may include buildings or sites.

1. Goals

1.1    To acquire collections significant to the development and enhancement of teaching and research within the University OR that have an important connection to the University of South Australia and its antecedents OR are consistent with important domains of human knowledge, culture and endeavour.

1.2     To commission items that enhance the buildings and grounds of the University OR that increase awareness of the collections across the University.

1.3     To promote, and make accessible, collections and museums or their related services.

2. University museums and collection principles

2.1.     Collections and museums may only be established following formal approval of a proposal by the Vice Chancellor. Proposals must express long-term commitment to collection or museum management and sustainability, describe how the collection or museum will enhance the University’s expressed goals, and confirm that no other appropriate collection or museum is already established for the purpose.

2.2     Collections and museums will operate in accordance with a written management plan, which will include its purpose and the proposed manner of acquisition, management and disposal of items. The management plan must be made accessible to the University community.

2.3     A advisory group will be established by the relevant Pro Vice Chancellor to oversee the collection or museum, with terms of reference for its representation and operation.

2.4     Each advisory group will review the collection or museum management plan at least every three (3) years to ensure its relevance to the University’s expressed goals.

2.5     From time to time a policy may be developed which will address a specific collection. Such policy development may only be undertaken with the permission of the Vice Chancellor.

2.6     Each collection or museum advisory group will report annually to the Pro Vice Chancellor; Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences as part of the annual review cycle

3. Guidelines for acquisition

3.1     Clear legal title shall be required for all items of collectable or intrinsic significance which are permanently acquired by the University. If clear title cannot be provided, a proposed acquisition should not proceed. The title shall pass to the University of South Australia as a whole, and not to any person, division or school.

3.2     Collections and museums may include loaned items. The conditions of any loan to the University must be clearly and contractually specified, and must include the proposed term of the loan, and define the responsibilities for conservation, security and insurance.

4 Collection Management

4.1     Items acquired by the University, will be placed within the appropriate University collection or museum and therefore be subject to ongoing management.

4.2     Each item will be appropriately catalogued.

4.3     Items will be stored and/or displayed in an appropriate manner so as to ensure access, security and ongoing preservation.

4.4     The de-accessioning and disposal of an item or group of items from a recognised collection or museum must comply with the management advisory group’s plan. De-accessioning of the entire holdings of a recognised collection or museum may only occur with the written approval of the Vice Chancellor.

4.5     Funds acquired through the disposal of items will be reinvested into a collection or museum as directed by the Vice Chancellor.

5 Donations/gifts

5.1     Gifts to the collection or museum will be encouraged, provided such gifts are within the Collection policy guidelines. The University will have the right to accept or refuse such offers of gifts.

5.2     Gifts will only be accepted where the donor has legal title to the work and the gift is made on the basis of a transfer from the donor to the University without conditions.

5.3     The University supports the use of the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Programme to facilitate donations.

6 Register

6.1     The University will maintain a register of all collections and museums and related management plans.

6.2     Collections and museums must be registered with the relevant national/international organisation.

7 Ethics

7.1     The University and its employees responsible for the Collections will be guided by the University’s Code of Ethics and the codes of ethics published by the museum profession.