Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
A. Single item significance assessment
Start the process of assessing significance by collating an item file with copies of all available information about the item. This provides the basis for further research. Write notes under each step in the process as a reference point for considering the criteria and drafting the statement of significance. Not every step in the assessment process will be relevant to the item in focus. The notes act as prompts and may be revised as the work develops.
Single item: step-by-step significance assessment
Collate a file with all the information about the item and its history
This may include acquisition date, donor or vendor, notes made when the item was acquired, photos, copies of letters and reference materials, and information about related items and places.
Research the history and provenance of the item
This may include the date when the item was made or created, information on the creator, photos of the item in context or use, notes about the owners or the place where the item was created, used, or purchased, and the general history of this type of item. Research previous owners of the item.
Consult donors, owners, and knowledgeable people
Identify those with an interest in or knowledge of the item. Ask questions about the context, provenance and potential social values. Encourage informants to make notes about the creation, function, history and meaning of the item, or record this information in other ways. Consult people who may have information about the item or maker, or know about similar items, work practices or associated places.
Explore the context of the item
Consider how the item relates to wider historical themes, patterns, movements, developments or industry. How does it relate to the history, geography or environment of the place where it was created or used? Consider its function and purpose, and relationship with other items. Wherever possible, record the item in its context of use and original location, or document similar items in situ. Include maps where relevant.
Analyse and describe the fabric and condition of the item
This may include notes on the appearance or nature of the item, the materials, marks, processes of design, creation or manufacture, patterns of wear, repair, changes and adaptations. Record the item's condition.
Compare the item with similar items
How is the item similar or different to comparable items? Check to see if cultural heritage websites list similar items. Where possible include photos for comparison. Check reference books and the Internet. Consult colleagues and other knowledgeable people, and collecting organisations with similar collections.
Identify related places and items
This may include heritage places associated with the item, or the environment or location of its origin. Identify related items or collections, such as items from the same owner or organisation. Consider the relationships between places, people and the item.
Assess significance against the criteria
Assess the item against the primary criteria: historic, artistic or aesthetic, scientific or research potential, and social or spiritual. Determine the degree of significance by assessment against the comparative criteria: provenance, rarity or representativeness, condition or completeness, and interpretive capacity. See Part 5 for more information about the criteria.
Consideration of the criteria helps define the item's significance. Look back at notes developed under the preceding steps to consider which criteria are relevant.
Write a statement of significance
Summarise the item's values and meanings by reviewing relevant criteria identified in Step 8. Refer to notes made at each step in the process. Don't just say the item is significant—explain how and why the item is significant and what it means. Discuss this with others who know about the item.
- Sign and date the assessment
Significance can change over time, so it's important to record the authorship and date of the assessment.
- List references
Cite the important sources for the research. Also indicate the sources not consulted, as this provides direction for future review and research.
- List and acknowledge contributors
Significance assessment is a collaborative process and this information recognises contributors who may be consulted if the assessment is reviewed in the future.
List recommendations and actions
Consider policies arising from the assessment and advice on management, conservation, further research, access or interpretation.