Caring for the collection

Taking care of the world’s largest collection of items related to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia has its challenges, and our team is faced with the following three distinct preservation and access issues:

  1. Many collection items are held in a wide variety of analogue formats, including film, video, audio, photographic formats and print materials. These formats span a long history of media technology. The age of these materials raises the risk of content loss due to the physical deterioration of the storage device, particularly when items have not been stored under optimum conditions prior to their arrival at AIATSIS.
  2. Additional complications are presented by the fact that many of the analogue playback devices for particular formats are no longer manufactured or supported.
  3. We serve geographically dispersed client groups and individuals who wish to use collection items. For ease of access, distribution and reproduction many of these requests are now required in digital formats.


Our comprehensive preservation program addresses the above preservation and access issues by digitising analogue collection items so more people can easily access them as well as preserving the original collection item as it was deposited.

This work is conducted by a diverse approach:

  • Collection items received are assessed, conservation treatments applied and items are then stored in temperature and humidity controlled vault storage to slow down further deterioration.
  • Digitisation of collection items is prioritised based on a variety of factors – including significance, state of deterioration and level of client demand.
  • Digitisation is conducted by specialist technical staff with a range of analogue to digital transfer equipment selected to achieve quality results to identified technical standards.
  • We retain specialist engineering staff and have a suitably equipped workshop to ensure that vintage analogue playback devices remain operational.

Digitisation is guided by the AIATSIS Collections Business Plan and is conducted with regard to the adopted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, Information and Resource Network (ATSILIRN) protocols.


AIATSIS AVA Audio follows the IASA Guidelines and operate in accordance with the Australian Institute of Cultural Materials (AICCMCode of Ethics and Code of Practice.

Preserving your own archive 

Most people start researching their family with the documents and photographs in their own family collection. 

Family documents typically include birth and marriage certificates, letters, greeting cards, diaries and journals. Family photographic collections can include historic studio portraits, more modern film snaps and digital images.

Our preservation team has put together a list of handy hints on personal collection care so your family collection can be protected for future generations.