Materials Conservation Unit

The Materials Conservation and Analytical Resources Unit carries out work to preserve the Museum's collections and make them accessible to the community.

The Unit specialises in the preservation of Anthropology and Natural Science collections including:

• ethnographic and archaeological objects
• rare books and archives
• biology and geology collections

The Conservation unit also includes two staff members with skills outside of traditional conservation skills. We are lucky to a taxidermist and the manager of the museums Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) as part of the team, who lend their own special skill set to the department.


Our work is divided into two major areas: preventive and treatment.

The preventive conservation programs control deterioration of the Museum's collections and includes:
• environmental monitoring and control
• pest control
• packing and transport of fragile objects
• disaster preparedness planning
• object handling
• improving storage systems

The treatment program carries out work to stabilise and or improve the condition of significant individual objects of the Anthropology and Natural Science Collections. This includes:

• Remedial treatments as required
• preparation of objects for loan to other museums and cultural centres
• exhibitions at the Australian Museum
• Larger scale complex treatments

Check out some examples of our work in the gallery What’s on in the lab

Staff investigate new techniques and materials which will improve the preventive and treatment programs. We have a range of scientific equipment for the examination and analysis of specimens which are used for research and conservation. Such as:
• Microscopy
• Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
• X-Ray Diffraction (XRD)
• X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (portable XRF)
• Three dimensional laser scanning

The Unit provides advice and training on preservation of cultural material for Australian Aboriginal communities and museums and cultural centres in South East Asia and the Pacific. Our publication, Care of Collections, provides information for people working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural collections. Respect for communities' cultural property and ensuring the integrity of natural science specimens are always a key consideration in our decisions.



Colin Macgregor , Manager, Materials Conservation
Last Updated: