Material Culture and the Cultural Environment: Objects and Places

Australia: State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Natural and Cultural Heritage), Series 1
Margaret Anderson
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1997
ISBN 0 642 25288 2

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About the Technical Paper

This paper provides an initial argument about the inter-connectedness of places and objects and about the place of objects in our culture. It points to the importance of preserving objects along with historic places, but goes further to consider objects material (or portable) heritage as another source of historical or cultural evidence, together with the built environment, documentary and pictorial evidence and 'intangible heritage', or folklore.

Alongside the objects associated with places in the historic environment, museums also house large collections of scientific, historical and ethnographic objects. Together these constitute a highly significant source for the interpretation of Australia's environment, history and culture, both past and present. The paper explores the representativeness of these collections, pointing to recent developments in this area. It also highlights the conditions under which collections are held, arguing the need for urgent strategies to ensure their preservation into the future. Despite recent inter-governmental initiatives in this area, much remains to be done to preserve Australia's material heritage and, with it, our sense of ourselves.