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. Due to the generosity of the Australian public we receive large numbers of donations which can cause delays in processing donated material.
Please only send items to the Memorial 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.
- Can you describe the item?
- Do you know who it relates to?
- Are there any stories related to it? Why do you think the Memorial is the most appropriate place for your item?
- Where did you get it?
- Can you confirm you are the legal owner,* and would be happy to transfer permanent legal ownership to the Australian War Memorial?
- If you have multiple items, can you describe the number or volume of the material?
- Can you provide a digital image of it?
*Legal owner 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
We seek 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 experience 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 experience of conflict
- Oral history interviews with current and recent serving veterans.
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 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 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. 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 offer of donation form can be found here. To ensure we are able to meet with you, at least two weeks’ notice is required.
- Please only send items to the Memorial once instructed by the Donations team.
- The Memorial reserves the right to return any unsolicited donations without first receiving an offer of 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 an offer of 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 4.00 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.
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 you 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?
- Information about how to order copies of photographs, film, sound, works of art, and photographs 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 on the website updated?
- While every effort is made to ensure accuracy of data in the Collection Search, errors can sometimes occur. Read information and submit a caption ammendment suggestion.
How do I look after my memorabilia?
Can I borrow items from the Memorial’s collection?
- Please read information about our loans program.
Can I bequest 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. 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 which is supported by our Collection Development Plan.
- If you wish to sell material which you believe may be of interest to the Memorial, 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 we reserve the right not to respond to requests that the Memorial bid for items on online auction sites, nor provide advice regarding buying and selling of items.
I found some medals and want to reunite them with the family. What can I do?
- Read about reuniting families with medals on our blog.
How do you decide what to collect?
- The Memorial has a comprehensive Collection Development Plan that indicates the Memorial’s collecting aims and priorities, organised by conflict.
What is copyright, and how does it affect my donation?
- Donors are encouraged to transfer copyright to the Memorial, in items where copyright exists. This should be considered as part of the donation process. Please see our copyright information page for more information. For more detailed advice, please see the Australian Copyright Council’s website for useful fact sheets including an introduction to copyright and information about copyright ownership.
I’m having difficulty using your online form. Is there an alternative?
- If you are having difficulty you can contact email@example.com.