Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Collection risk assessment
Significance assessment is an invaluable tool for making decisions about protecting significant items and collections from a range of risks that have the potential to threaten their condition and safety.
A conservation survey of a collection should include a priority list of significant items and collections, and suggest ways of preserving their significance by taking measures to avert risk. A list of the most significant items and collections should always be available to ascertain that they are removed from harm's way in an emergency.
Priority rescue according to significance – Australian flag fragments
Re-enactment of the raising of the 1901 Australian flag in Townsville, 16 September, 1951
Reproduced courtesy of the CityLibraries, Townsville City Council
The first vice-regal raising of the newly designed Australian flag took place in Townsville on 16 September 1901. The Right Honourable the Earl of Hopetoun, KT, GCMG, GCVO, Australia's first Governor-General, performed the ceremony when opening the Town Hall, and pronounced Townsville the 'Queen City of the North'.
At the request of the Royal Australian Historical Society, this 1901 flag was sent to Sydney in 1922, where it remained for twenty-nine years. In 1951 the flag was returned to Townsville where it was unfurled and repaired. Three ink-stained fragments of cloth were removed during restoration work to the flag when it was returned to Townsville in 1951. These fragments are the only known remaining pieces of the original flag raised in Townsville on 16 September 1901. The location of the repaired flag is unknown.
The fragments were not stored appropriately for some time. In 2000 they were sent to the Queensland Museum for preservation and framing. The framed fragments are now in the Local History Collection of CityLibraries Townsville, in a climate controlled environment.
North Queensland experiences environmental problems: humidity is extremely high and power shortages can occur frequently. The building in which the flag fragments have been housed has been severely affected by water damage several times. Townsville CityLibraries senior librarians recently participated in a disaster preparedness workshop that focused on water damage likely to be caused by a cyclone or major tropical storm. Significance assessment was introduced to assist in prioritising salvage items according to the criteria, in preparation for the 2008/2009 wet season. The 1901 flag fragments were recognised as significant as a result of the assessment.
According to the collectionwide assessment performed by the Townsville CityLibraries with the help of a Queensland Museum Development Officer, the 1901 flag fragments were assessed as highly significant. Consequently, they top the Priority Salvage List in the Townsville CityLibraries Disaster Preparedness Plan. Second and third priorities are collections of photographs (totalling 20 000 items).
Significance assessment of this library collection has delivered a prioritised list for salvaging collection items in the event of extreme weather.
Significance in action
Significance assessment applications and case studies
- Conservation treatment
- Collection risk assessment
- Collection care
- Copying and digitisation
- Collection analysis and policy development
- In situ collections
- Shared collections
- Exhibitions and interpretation
- Online exhibitions
- Online access and education
- Assessing cultural heritage website quality
- Nominating to a register
- Applying for a grant
- Advocacy and resourcing
- Fundraising and promotion
- Thematic studies and regional surveys
- Collections mapping
- Significance training