Acquisitions Policy

Section 1 – Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to set out the principles and priorities guiding the selection of new acquisitions for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and to ensure its legal and ethical obligations are observed in continuing to develop the collection.

The objectives of this policy are to ensure that:
a) TMAG applies rigorous, ethical and accountable standards in the consideration, assessment and negotiation of acquisitions;
b) acquisitions to the collection are considered and approved in accordance with established delegated authority; and
c) conditions of acceptance and documentation requirements for acquisitions are in accordance with established policies and procedures.

These objectives are to be achieved by ensuring that TMAG:
a) acquires items that fit within TMAG’s collecting priority areas;
b) collection practices and procedures are transparent;
c) obtains valid legal title and other documentation for items acquired for the collection; and
d) avoids any act or omission that may compromise TMAG’s position and reputation for integrity.


This policy applies to all activities relating to the acquisition and accessioning of items into the TMAG collection.

TMAG’s collections are held within the four main curatorial disciplines:

1) Art - incorporating:

  • Art
  • Decorative Arts

2) Cultural Heritage – incorporating:

  • Tasmanian history
  • Antarctic and Southern Ocean

3) Indigenous Cultures – incorporating:

  • Tasmanian Aboriginal
  • Australian Aboriginal
  • Non-Australian material

4) Natural Sciences – incorporating:

  • Botany
  • Zoology
  • Geology

This policy does not apply to assets acquired for display purposes (i.e. props), to support learning programs, items under repository agreements, or loan items.

Authorities / Legal Framework

This policy is established by the Director and approved by the Board of Trustees (the Board) pursuant to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Act 2017 (the Act).

  • Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986


This policy should be read in conjunction with:

  • TMAG discipline specific acquisition policies and procedures;
  • Instrument of Delegations for TMAG;
  • TMAG Deed of Gift;
  • Public Interest Disclosure Policy and procedure;
  • ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums;
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – March 1973;
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (2010);
  • 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Section 2 – Glossary / Definitions

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Act 2017.

The process which formally acknowledges an item as part of the Collection and, prima facie, an item to be held in perpetuity.

The process of obtaining valid legal title to an item. Items may be acquired through various methods for the purpose of accessioning into the Collection, or acquired and not accessioned.

A gift or form of pledge made to TMAG, forming part of a donor’s will, to be received under a will following the donor’s death.

Means the Board of Trustees of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Conflict of interest
Is a situation where the personal interests of an individual working for, or representing, an organisation actually, potentially or are perceived to conflict with that organisation’s interests.

Deed of Gift
A formal, legally binding document that establishes that title to an item is given to TMAG as a gift. TMAG’s Deed of Gift template also outlines the terms and conditions of the gift and its acceptance.

An individual, organisation or group who has made or is proposing to make a gift to TMAG.

Due diligence
For the purposes of this policy, means a comprehensive assessment of an item to evaluate its authenticity, ownership and provenance and to identify and assess any gaps in these.

The gratuitous transfer of property and title of the donation. A fractional gift means that a donor retains partial ownership of the donation. A restricted gift obliges the institution to comply with certain requirements that govern the gift’s use, attribution, display or future disposition.

The full history and chain of ownership of an item from the time of its discovery or creation to the present day, through which authenticity and legal title are determined.

Purchase Agreement
A formal, legally binding written contract which outlines the rights, obligations and undertakings of the buyer and seller and outlines the terms and conditions of the sale and the transfer of both property and title.

Repository of last resort
An occasion where an institution will act as a custodian for cultural material, for which a full provenance history is not available or to protect it from destruction or deterioration.

The historical, aesthetic, scientific or social values that a museum object or collection has for past, present and future generations.

The legal right to ownership of property. This may be supported by full evidence of every transaction subsequent to the first owner’s title.

Section 3 – Policy

3.1 Statement

The development of the collection is essential to ensure that TMAG fulfils its institutional objectives as outlined in the Act.

TMAG is committed to developing its collections according to the highest ethical standards and legal requirements. To uphold this commitment, TMAG shall, where applicable, undertake due diligence to ensure it only acquires collections that have legal title, established provenance, are authentic, and are not identified as having been looted, illegally obtained or exported.

TMAG ensures that all acquisitions are negotiated and managed on terms that are ethical, responsible and visible to public scrutiny and maintains TMAG’s standing and reputation for collecting excellence.

TMAG recognizes the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 (the Convention) and acknowledges that Australia is a signatory to the Convention. TMAG also recognizes and is bound by the terms of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 and is guided by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics, Museums Australia Code of Ethics and the Australian Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material.

3.2 Considerations in Collecting

3.2.1 Collecting Priorities

TMAG’s collection development is guided by the collecting priority areas as outlined in the discipline specific acquisition policies and the ‘significance’ of objects.

3.2.2 Provenance

When considering acquiring items for the collection, TMAG will practice the highest standards of due diligence.

To establish the provenance of an item, the relevant curator will carry out thorough research before proposing the item for acquisition.

As a general principle, TMAG will not acquire an item through any means or methods, unless it can acquire valid legal title.

Items, excepting natural science specimens, acquired for the collection should, where applicable, have a documented legal history that extends back to before 14 November 19701. However, items without documented histories may be added to the collection under any or all of the following circumstances:

a) The items were lawfully seized by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
b) The objects would otherwise be at risk of destruction.
c) TMAG acts as a repository of last resort.
d) Where the donor would be in breach of the law if they were to retain possession of the item.

3.2.3 Conditions and Care

TMAG will consider the factors that may impact on the condition, care and preservation of an item prior to its acquisition, including any issues or unusual costs in relation to:
a) the current condition and/or long-term care of the item;
b) the storage and movement of the item, including but not limited to long-term storage issues and costs and WHS issues; and
c) documentation, display and loan.

3.3 Delegated Authority

Acquisitions to the collection are approved by the Board or its delegate.

The Director has delegated authority to approve acquisitions within established limits.

3.4 Responsibilities

The Board, as the steward of the TMAG collections, is responsible for the care and development of the collections and ensuring compliance with Board approved collection policies and procedures.

The Director is responsible for ensuring that employees under their management are aware of, have an understanding of, and are implementing the requirements of this policy.
The Director is responsible for ensuring that a list of all acquisitions approved in the financial year is published in TMAG’s Annual Report.

Employees are responsible for:
a) Understanding and implementing the requirements of this policy.
b) Requesting assistance as required in the implementation of this policy and escalating foreseeable issues to their manager.
c) Documentation: ensuring an Acquisition Proposal and a Deed of Gift is completed unless otherwise determined by the delegated authority.
d) Record-keeping: maintaining records (paper-based and/or electronic) in accordance with established policies and procedures, for each proposed acquisition, including those that are not approved by the Board, documenting relevant information and decision-making. The records that TMAG creates are State records and come under the jurisdiction of the Archives Act 1983. TMAG has specific and implied requirements for record keeping. These are extended by related financial and administrative legislation that requires employees to be accountable for their actions.
e) Notifying the Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) when TMAG takes delivery of any specially protected wildlife or protected wildlife specimen as per s.57(2) of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. TMAG is not obliged to accept any donated wildlife specimens.

3.5 Conflict of Interest

To avoid ethical issues, TMAG will not consider purchasing items from TMAG staff, Board members, or the families and close associates of these persons unless the item is assessed to have extraordinary significance, associated risks are formally assessed and the conflicted person has been removed from any decision making process.

All staff and Board members must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest in connection with their employment.

Should any conflict of interest regarding acquisitions develop between an individual and TMAG, the interests of TMAG must prevail.

3.6 Compliance

All employees are required to comply with this policy and disciplinary action may apply where an employee fails to comply with this policy without reasonable cause.

Section 4 – Procedures

4.1 Methods of Acquisition

4.1.1 Gifts / Donations

TMAG will not accept fractional gifts without a written statement of intent that requires the donor to transfer the remaining interest within a specified period of time.

TMAG will not accept restricted gifts without careful consideration of the benefits of the gift against the long-term impact the restrictions will have on the museum’s operations.

TMAG is under no obligation to acquire gifts that are bequeathed.

Donations under the Commonwealth Government Cultural Gifts Program must comply with the requirements of the scheme and this policy. Approval of such donations shall be in accordance with approved delegations.

4.1.2 Purchases

Items may be purchased from dealers, commercial galleries, shops, private individuals and companies, for the purpose of accession into the collection.

Although warranty of title is implied in the sale of goods, a purchase agreement and/or vendor warranty will be entered into as appropriate. These documents stipulate the warranties and undertakings the seller makes in relation to the title and authenticity of the item which they are selling, guaranteeing that it is free form restrictions or encumbrances.

Items will not be considered for purchase for the collection unless full funding has first been secured, except in the case where the Board determines otherwise.

Purchase at Auction
Items may be purchased at auction and, in such instances, purchases are made on the auction house’s terms and are not formalised through a purchase agreement. The auction house’s terms of sale must be evaluated for warranty of title and authenticity in accordance with this policy.

4.1.3 Bequests
All, some or none of the items offered to TMAG by bequest may be accepted for the purpose of accession into the collection. In accordance with the conditions of the bequest, items may be also acquired as property to be disposed of to benefit the collection.

For accepted bequests, a copy of the will, codicils and any other related documentation will be retained as part of TMAG’s records.

4.1.4 Commission

TMAG may acquire works of art by contracting an artist to produce a work for the collection. The terms and conditions of the commission will be stipulated in the work of art proposal approved by the Board and the memorandum of understanding established between TMAG and the artist/s.

4.1.5 Exchanges

TMAG may acquire material through exchange programs with other institutions.

The donation of surplus material through exchange programs is authorised as per approved delegations.

TMAG does not engage in exchanges of accessioned items with other institutions or individuals, except in the case where the Board determines otherwise.

4.1.6 Field Collections

Collecting from nature must be in accordance with relevant Federal and State legislation, conventions and with the appropriate permit issued to the collector.

4.1.7 Other

Acquisitions that do not conform to this policy will only be made in exceptional circumstances after consideration by the Board, having regard to the interests of other museums and the community.

4.2 Ineligible Items

Items in the following categories will not be acquired by TMAG:

  • Ammunition.
  • Explosives.
  • Items for which there are suspicions of dubious legality or ethics.
  • Items that pose a hazard or potential hazard to staff, such as asbestos, radioactive materials and live dangerous or diseased animals.

TMAG will not acquire items where there is reasonable cause to believe their recovery involved unauthorised or unscientific fieldwork, or intentional destruction or damage to monuments, archaeological or geological sites, or of species and natural habitats.

TMAG will not acquire items or specimens, where it is determined through due diligence, that they have been collected, sold, or otherwise transferred in contravention of local, national, regional or international law or treaty relating to wildlife protection or natural history conservation, including the CITES Convention.

Where applicable, TMAG will not acquire items where ownership of copyright will not be transferred, or licensed to TMAG, except in the case where the Board otherwise approves.

4.3 Unsolicited Donations

In general, TMAG is under no obligation to accept unsolicited donations. In the case of extraordinary cultural, historical, artistic, scientific or monetary value the Curator may make a recommendation to acquire.

Rejected items will be returned to the sender, if known, or disposed of in accordance with TMAG policy and procedures.

Rejected items where the donor is unknown will be considered abandoned and TMAG reserves the right to dispose of such property as it sees fit.

Further References

  • Tasmanian Nature Conservation Act 2002 Tasmanian Whales Protection Act 1988
  • Tasmanian National Parks and Reserved Land Regulations 1999
  • Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984
  • Meteorites Act 1973

1 The date of the UNESCO Convention