The National Vietnam Veterans Museum has an extensive collection of artefacts and objects, both large and small, collected over almost 20 years. Many items have been donated by veterans and family members. Others have been gifted from other institutions like the Australian War Memorial or the RSL or acquired by the museum commercially. From helicopters to images, from our tank to a letter home, everything in the collection is important.
This collection has grown from small beginnings by donations to the original travelling ‘museum’ trailer, to donations now to a relatively more sophisticated collection process today, albeit one still largely dependent on volunteers. Like any collection, items received must be receipted, assessed, accepted into the collection or declined, acknowledged, cleaned, stored and or displayed. This process might seem simple but actually requires many hours of work for the simplest of items. Added to the need for conservation and preservation is the need to rotate items which are on display to protect them from the ravages, over time, of light and ultra violet rays, dust and other environmental hazards.
As well, the requirements of presenting exhibitions which use the museum collection also places large demands on the volunteer collection team.
Last of all, the need to steadily improve and refresh the exhibits seen by the public also require not just volunteer work time but also funds to upgrade display cases, lighting and exhibit development. So there is always much to be done just to keep up with these demands. For example, the museum is currently working on a brand new lifesize diorama exhibit showing a Viet Cong tunnel system [see the concept drawings here] but often changes in the collection include simple things like adding a new digital picture frame or changing the position of an item to a more appropriate space.
A collection policy has been established to help museum staff work through the processes of donation, acquisition, assessment and de-accessioning and disposal. To this end, closer relations have been established with other military style museums and greater information sharing about the collection is being developed.
So now the museum is working towards making the best use of the collection rather than simply having everything on display, and this means that there is actually more work going on behind the scenes as is visible to the visitor. We hope you enjoy the outcome as the museum continues to develop and improve its exhibits, exhibitions and information.