Donating items to the Memorial

Since its inception during the First World War, the Australian War Memorial has relied on the generosity and commitment of everyday Australians. Then as now, Australians have understood the need for the preservation of those objects that would help all generations remember, interpret, and understand the Australian experience of war. The Memorial's collection now holds several million items that continue to tell an important part of the story of what it means to be Australian.

Of course, the Memorial is unable to accept all items into the National Collection. In developing acquisition policies, the Memorial's curators must address issues such as relevance to collection development, existing collection holdings, available storage space, and available staff resources. This means that, after careful assessment by our curators, we must sometimes decline offers of donation. Owing to the generosity of the Australian public we receive large numbers of donations, which can cause delays in processing donated material.

Please send items to the Memorial only once instructed by the Donations team. Please read the donation checklist below to ensure that the necessary information is available, and then use our online form.

Fill out the online donation form
Make a donation

Donation checklist

  1. Can you describe the item?
  2. Do you know who it relates to?
  3. Are there any stories related to it? Why do you think the Memorial is the most appropriate place for your item? 
  4. Where did you get it?
  5. Can you confirm you are the legal owner,* and would be happy to transfer permanent legal ownership to the Australian War Memorial?
  6. If you have multiple items, can you describe the number or volume of the material?
  7. Can you provide a digital image of it?

*Legal ownership means having ownership of the physical item. Copyright is a separate issue addressed here

Things to consider before making an offer

  • Unfortunately, we are unable to accept everything that is offered to us. We have particular collecting priorities, and some areas of our collection are already well developed. If we already hold good examples of an object we are unlikely to accept more.
  • We cannot accept material where current ownership is unknown or might be disputed.
  • We strongly recommend you talk with your family before you offer material to the Memorial. Their wishes may need to be considered before you proceed.
  • A donation is finalised by the donor signing a Deed of Gift. This is a legal document that transfers ownership of the item to the Memorial. Once a donation is finalised, it cannot be returned.

What do we collect?

Current collection priorities

Currently we are looking to collect original items that relate to Australia’s involvement in and experience of war from the nineteenth century to the present day. We have strong interest in all items that have stories associated with them or are closely linked to people or events, including equipment, objects, works of art, photographs, letters, diaries, and souvenirs.

Collection areas we want to develop

  • Representation of women who have served in conflicts, including peacekeeping exercises from Vietnam to the present day
  • Australian involvement in and experiences of the Korean War and Gulf Wars
  • Personal letters, diaries, audiovisual records, and mementoes relating to modern conflicts
  • Material relating to Indigenous military service and experiences of conflict
  • Oral history interviews with current and recent serving veterans  see our
  • Material relating to Australian involvement in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions
  • Material relating to Australian survivors of the Holocaust.

What we do not collect

  • Photocopies or digital copies of original material (unless the original is no longer in existence)
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Secondary source research material
  • Reproductions of artworks
  • Books, photographs, documents, or other material published by the Memorial
  • Copies of items already in the Memorial collection
  • Copies of material in other public institutions, including service records
  • Commercially released audio-visual material
  • Material that cannot be connected to the Australian experience
  • Medal ribbon bars
  • Miniature medals
  • Medal cases and cardboard boxes
  • Laminated material
  • Family histories without substantial military content
  • Discharge certificates, pay books, demobilisation books, attestation papers or commissioning certificates if offered in isolation without other associated items.

Frequently asked questions

What happens to items that are not accepted?

  • Any items not accepted will be returned to the donor. The Memorial is unable to dispose of any items on the donor’s behalf.

What happens to the material I donate?

  • Items accepted into the National Collection will be assessed and housed in specialist, secure storage, in accordance with the Memorial's collection documentation and preservation policies.
  • Donors and their families are welcome to visit to view donated items. We ask for two weeks’ notice of intended visits to allow for items in off-site storage to be transported, to ensure that items are not undergoing conservation work during visits, and to ensure that staff members are available. Our staff can facilitate viewings Monday to Friday, between 9.30 am and 4 pm; staff are not available on weekends, public holidays, or between 24 December and 4 January. Please contact us to make an appointment to view items.

How can I get my memorabilia to the Memorial?

  • An online donation form will need to be submitted and assessed by staff before a donation appointment can be made. A member of the Donations team will confirm an appointment once the process is complete. Our donation form can be found here. To ensure we are able to meet with you, at least two weeks’ notice is required.
  • Please send items to the Memorial only once instructed by the Donations team.
  • The Memorial reserves the right to return any unsolicited donations without first receiving a donation form.
  • If you have offered material for donation, our staff will be in touch with you to discuss the transport options available. Methods can vary based on the items being donated, and the location of the items.

Can I visit the Memorial and meet with someone to discuss my donation?

  • Owing to the number of enquiries we receive, we cannot guarantee that staff will be available to meet with visitors who arrive without an appointment.
  • We ask all donors to submit a donation form before visiting the Memorial. To ensure we are able to meet with you, at least two weeks’ notice is required.
  • Our staff are available to meet donors Monday to Friday, between 9.30 am and 4 pm; staff are not available on weekends, public holidays, or between 24 December and 4 January.

Will my donation go on display?

  • We cannot guarantee that donated items will be exhibited at the Memorial. The Memorial’s collection is vast, and only approximately three per cent is on display at any one time.
  • Depending on corporate priorities, it can take a number of years before a curated record of your material is available on our website. While a curated record of the material may be available, a digitised image of the material may not accompany the record.

Can I offer items as a loan?

  • In some cases we borrow items for a defined period; however, we are not able to accept items on a permanent loan basis.

I think my relative donated material to the Memorial in the past. How can I find out about this?

  • Please contact us regarding the donation. We will need to know what the items are, who they relate to, the full name of the donor, and when they were donated.

Can I have copies of the items I’ve donated?

  • The Memorial does not provide copies of original material as a condition of donation. If the Acquisitions team requests your items to be sent to the Memorial, we recommend you arrange for your own digitisation before sending in original items. Information about how to order copies of photographs, film, sound, works of art, and images of objects in the collection can be found on our website. If you have any questions about the ordering process please contact the eSales Unit.
  • If you would like to purchase copies of private records, official records, or published collections, please read the information about the Research Centre’s copying services. If you have any questions about the ordering process please contact the Research Centre.

How can I get captions updated on the website?

How do I look after my memorabilia?

Can I borrow items from the Memorial’s collection?

Can I bequeath my memorabilia to the Memorial?

  • You may wish to leave significant items or funds to the Australian War Memorial in your will. In some cases, the federal government also offers taxation benefits to your estate. Click here for information about bequests.

Can the Memorial provide a valuation for my items?

  • The Australian War Memorial cannot provide valuations of your items.
  • Depending on the type of item, you could check online auction sites, contact your local auction house, antique or militaria dealer, or an independent valuer.
  • A list of valuers is available for download as part of the federal government’s Cultural Gifts Program, which provides tax incentives for donations of culturally significant items, from private collections to public institutions.

Does the Memorial buy items?

  • The Memorial does sometimes purchase material for the collection and the same assessment criteria apply as to donations.
  • The Memorial has limited acquisition funds. For a purchase to proceed the item must be a significant addition to the collection and supported by our Collection Development Plan.
  • If you wish to sell material which you believe may be of interest to the Memorial, you will need to submit an online donation form. You will need to specify in the form that you wish to be a vendor rather than a donor.
  • Please note that we reserve the right not to respond to requests that the Memorial bid for items on online auction sites, nor do we provide advice regarding the buying and selling of items.

I found some medals and want to reunite them with the family. What can I do?

How do you decide what to collect?

  • The Memorial has a comprehensive Collection Development Plan that indicates its collecting aims and priorities, organised by conflict. 

What is copyright, and how does it affect my donation?

I’m having difficulty using your online form. Is there an alternative?