Statement of Significance of the Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project

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Meaning and Importance

Rather than taking an existing collection and applying a significance assessment to single items or the collection (to determine if the value of the items or collection justifies its continued maintenance), the Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project begins with a simple statement: that the industrial heritage of Ballarat and district is significant to local concerns and those further afield and, thus, deserves to be properly recognised and recorded.

Wikis are meant to? (Is the wiki an archive, gallery, library or museum?)

Does this mean that significance can't be applied to collection policies and maintain the authenticity of the wiki process and experience?

Find comparable wikis, etc.

“Collate a file – Research history and (for items) provenance – Review scope and themes arising from research (for collections) – Consult knowledgeable people-to whom is the item/collection significant? – Explore the context of the item/collection-consider patterns, development, function, geography, environment – Analyse and describe the fabric and condition of the item/collection-consider nature, materials, design, manufacture, changes – Compare with other examples – Identify related places and items/collection-what else is part of the picture? – Assess significance against the primary and comparative criteria – Write a succinct statement of significance-consider all information gathered; explain how and why the item/collection is significant and what it means; discuss with others – Action-what to do next?-list recommendations, policies and tasks arising”(1)

Primary criteria

Historic significance

• Is it associated with a particular person, group, event, place or activity and how is this important?

• What does it say about an historic theme, process, or pattern of life?

• How does it contribute to understanding a period, place, activity, industry, person or event?

Artistic or aesthetic significance

• Is it well designed, crafted or made?

• Is it a good example of a style, design, artistic movement or an artist’s work?

• Is it original or innovative in its design?

• Is it beautiful, pleasing, or well-proportioned?

• Does it show a high degree of creative or technical accomplishment?

• Does it depict a subject, person, place, activity or event of interest or importance?

This criterion is most relevant to works of art, craft, design and decorative arts, but may also apply to items of technology, or mineral specimens or folk art. Items do not have to be art works to have artistic value. Some pictures may have little artistic significance but have historic value instead.

Scientific or research significance

• Do researchers have an active interest in studying the item or collection today, or will they want to in the future?

• How is it of interest or value for science or research today or in the future?

• Is it of research potential and in what way?

• What things in particular constitute its scientific or research interest and research value?

This criterion only applies to items or collections of current scientific value, or with research potential such as archives, natural history or archaeological collections. Items such as historic scientific instruments are generally of historic significance.

Social or spiritual significance

• Is it of particular value to a community or group today? Why is it important to them?

• How is this demonstrated? How is the item kept in the public eye, or its meaning kept alive for a group? For example, by use in an annual parade or ceremonies, or by maintaining traditional practices surrounding the item.

• Has the community been consulted about its importance for them?

• Is it of spiritual significance for a particular group?

• Is this spiritual significance found in the present?

• Does it embody beliefs, ideas, customs, traditions, practices or stories that are important for a particular group?

Social or spiritual significance is always specific to a particular, identified group of people. This type of significance only applies to items and collections where there is a demonstrated contemporary attachment between the item or collection and a group or community. Items or collections of social history interest are of historic significance. Religious items that are no longer used are more likely to be of historic or artistic significance. If the item or collection has spiritual or social significance, this should be demonstrated through consultation with the community or group.

Comparative criteria

Four comparative criteria are used to evaluate the degree of significance. They interact with the primary criteria and may increase or decrease significance. For example, if the item is well provenanced it will generally be more significant; if it is in poor or incomplete condition, it will generally be of lower significance. Items or collections must be significant under one or more of the primary criteria. They cannot be significant if only the comparative criteria apply.


• Is it well documented or recorded for its class or type?

• Who created, made, owned or used the item or collection?

• Is its place of origin well documented?

• Is there a chain of ownership?

• Is the provenance reliable?

• How does the provenance shape the significance of the item or collection?

Provenance is part of the research in the assessment process as well as a comparative criterion.

Rarity or representativeness

• Does it have unusual qualities that distinguish it from other items in the class or category?

• Is it unusual or a particularly fine example of its type?

• Is it singular, unique or endangered?

• Is it a good example of its type or class?

• Is it typical or characteristic?

• Is it particularly well documented for its class or group?

In some cases items may be both rare and representative, such as examples of nineteenth-century working dress. An item that is merely representative is unlikely to be significant. It has to be significant under one of the primary criteria.

Condition or completeness

• Is it in good condition for its type?

• Is it intact or complete?

• Does it show repairs, alterations or evidence of the way it was used?

• Is it still working?

• Is it in original, unrestored condition?

In general, an item in original condition is more significant than one that has been restored.

Interpretive capacity

• How is it relevant to the organisation’s mission, purpose, collection policy and programs?

• Does it have a special place in the collection in relation to other items or a collection theme?

• Does it help to interpret aspects of its place or context?


(1) Russell, Roslyn and Kylie Winkworth. (2009). Significance 2.0: a guide to assessing the significance of collections. Rundell Mall SA: Collections Council of Australia Ltd, p. 38.

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