The Australian War Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of Australian servicemen and servicewomen who have died in war. Its mission is to help Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.
The Memorial was conceived as a shrine, museum and archive that supports commemoration through understanding. Its development through the years has remained consistent with this concept. Today the Memorial is a commemorative centrepiece; a museum, housing world-class exhibitions and a diverse collection of material relating to the Australian experience of war; and an archive holding extensive official and unofficial documents, diaries and papers, making the Memorial a centre of research for Australian military history.
The National Collection
The Australian War Memorial houses one of Australia’s most significant museum collections. Consisting of historical material relating to Australian military history, the National Collection is one of the most important means by which the Memorial presents the stories of Australians who served in war.
The National Collection is used to support exhibitions in the permanent galleries, temporary and travelling exhibitions, education and public programs, and the Memorial’s website. Today, over four million items record the details of Australia’s involvement in military conflicts from colonial times to the present day.
Donating to the National Collection
The National Collection is developed largely by donations received from serving or former members of Australia’s military forces and their families. These items come to the Memorial as direct donations or bequests, or as donations under the Cultural Gifts program. The Memorial also works closely with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to acquire material relating to current activities.
The Memorial’s curators cannot accept every item offered for donation. Each item must be assessed for its historic, social, and aesthetic importance; its known association with people, events, places, and themes; its expression of community identity; its craftsmanship, style, or beauty; and its potential to illustrate technological development.
Each item is also assessed against the existing collection: does it replicate objects already held? Does it have a better background than similar items already held? Is it of greater aesthetic value, or rarity, or is it in better condition than similar items?
When items are considered for the National Collection, the Memorial must ensure that there are no legal, moral, or financial obstacles; that clear evidence of ownership is available; and that copyright, licensing, and reproduction restrictions have been determined and documented.