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New home for SA cultural collections

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An $86 million building will become the new home of South Australia’s important cultural and artistic collections.

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As reported by InDaily in August 2019, only five per cent of the SA Museum’s vast collection is displayed at North Terrace, with most of the remainder housed in a leaky, ageing former printing warehouse at Netley.

The SA Museum holds the biggest and one of the oldest collections of Indigenous Australian cultural material in the world, with more than 30,000 spiritually- and anthropologically-significant pieces sourced – ethically or otherwise – from across Australia’s approximate 250 Aboriginal language groups.

Among the Netley collection is a remnant from the first Aboriginal flag, an Eora man’s wooden club that Lieutenant David Blackburn fashioned into a whip upon arrival in Australia on the First Fleet, and intricate contemporary Yolngu bark paintings.

Those pieces lie alongside 5000 spears, 3000 boomerangs, 500 bark paintings and drawers brimming with hundreds of intricately woven baskets, neck-pieces and sculptures, to name a few.

Aboriginal spears stored on shelves at the Netley site. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDailyItems from the collection rotate on display through the Art Gallery of SA, South Australian Museum, the History Trust of SA and the State Library.

The new building, which will remain off-limits to the public, is expected to open in 2024. It will store the state’s collections in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, with integrated pest control, robust security and specialised fire protection services.

“This new facility will allow a more collaborative approach between our cultural institutions and deliver a venue to securely protect South Australia’s collections,” Premier Steven Marshall said.

“The storage is fundamental to the care and safekeeping of the state’s cultural treasures, which in turn are fundamentally important to South Australians and our identity as a state.”

Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre Ambassador David Rathman said the journey to preserve, restore and safely store Aboriginal cultural heritage had taken many years of advocacy.

“Today is the first step in enabling 30,000 irreplaceable items of our heritage to be housed in a state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

“This world-class centre will enable future generations to be able to continue to appreciate the Aboriginal collection, which reaches back into the 60,000 years of Aboriginal story of country.”

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