Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Significance 2.0: a guide to assessing the significance of collection

Significance 2.0: a guide to assessing the significance of collections. Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth. Collections Council of Australia Ltd. 2009.
This guide is for defining an adaptable method for determining significance across all collections in Australia. The intention is that it will improve collection decision-making in areas such as, preservation, access, and funding support. Regarding significance:
  • We cannot keep everything forever. It is vital we make the best use of our scarce resources for collecting, conserving, documenting and digitising our collection materials.
  • Significance is not an absolute state; it can change over time.  
  • Collection custodians have a responsibility to consult communities and respect other views in constructing societal memory and identity. 
  • It is vital to understand, respect and document the context of collection materials that shape collection materials.
Significance’ refers to the values and meanings that items and collections have for people and communities. Significance helps unlock the potential of collections, creating opportunities for
communities to understand, access and enjoy collections. Artistic, scientific and social or
spiritual values are the criteria or key values that help to express how and why an item or collection is significant. Part of the criteria are: provenance, rarity or representativeness, condition or completeness, and interpretive capacity. Significance assessment involves five main steps:
  1. analysing an item or collection
  2. researching its history, provenance and context
  3. comparison with similar items
  4. understanding its values by reference to the criteria
  5. summarising its meanings and values in a statement of significance
 A statement of significance is a concise summary of the values, meaning and importance of an item
or collection. It is an argument about how and why an item or collection is of value. This should be reviewed as circumstances change.  Significance assessment is
  • a process to help with good management of items and collections; 
  • it is a collaborative process and consultation is essential.
  • it will substantiate justify assessments objectively rather than subjectively
The process is:
  1. Collate information about the history and development of the collection
  2. Research the history, scope and themes of the collection
  3. Consult knowledgeable people
  4. Explore the context of the collection
  5. Analyse and describe the condition of the collection
  6. Compare the collection with similar collections
  7. Identify related places and collections
  8. Assess significance against the criteria
  9. Write a statement of significance
  10. List recommendations and actions
Significance assessment is only the first part of the significance process. Once an item or collection has been assessed as significant, there will be a range of actions to better manage the collections.

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