Museum Victoria holds some 16.5 million collection items, acquired over more than 150 years.
Over this period, the museum has developed some of the most significant collections of Australian Indigenous cultural material in the world, extensive Natural Science collections with a particular strength in material from south-eastern Australia and surrounding waters, and an internationally-unique collection representing Victoria’s historical and technological developments.
Charged with the legislative mandate to develop the State collections of natural history (including collections of type specimens), the history of human society and the history of science and technology, the museum continues to develop and care for the collections to inform and enrich the lives of current and future generations of Victorians and other communities.
From its beginnings in 1854 as the National Museum of Victoria, the museum initially collected Victorian and Australian animals, rocks, minerals and fossils, as well as acquiring significant natural history collections from overseas. In 1870, the Industrial and Technological Museum (subsequently the Science Museum of Victoria) was established to collect and display science and technology.
At about the same time the National Museum of Victoria also began to actively acquire Australian Aboriginal cultural artefacts. Over a century later, in 1983, the Natural Science Museum of Victoria and Museum of Victoria amalgamated and social history was added as a further collecting focus.
The collections are testimony to the endeavours and decisions of the generations of curators employed at the museum since its early beginnings, and include many items and discrete collections of international, national, state and local scientific or cultural significance – the collections of natural science type specimens, the proclamation board from around 1830, and Phar Lap are more obvious examples of significant material from each of the main collections.
The collections document in particular the changes in Victoria’s natural environment and the lives of the people. They are storehouses of memory, which can be tapped to better understand how the environment has changed and examine who we are today.
Curators, collection managers and conservators play various roles in developing, documenting and preserving the collections. They ensure the collections and information associated with them are accessible to current and future researchers and to the wider public through exhibitions, web-based projects, talks, publications and numerous other projects.
The collections are stored across several specialised storage facilities, and the museum is working with the Victorian Government to develop a major new collection storage and access facility in Spotswood in forthcoming years.