Aboriginal heritage digitised

Article image - Aboriginal heritage digitised Hamilton Gallery’s Aboriginal Digitisation Support Officer, Denise Lovett, with a Gunditjmara digging stick and coolamon.

Hamilton Gallery, Southern Grampians Shire, Victoria, has embarked on a culturally significant collection project: to audit and digitise the largest and oldest collection of Australian Aboriginal objects on Gunditjmara country.

Project Leader, Denise Lovett, a Gunditjmara woman with a strong background in Aboriginal heritage management and protection, worked with the Hamilton Gallery team for the past three months as their Aboriginal Digitisation Support Officer to analyse almost 100 works within the gallery collection, with a specific focus on Gunditjmara objects.

The project involved digitising many hand-crafted instruments by Gunditjmara peoples onto collection management software, capturing images and details of each item, managing records and ensuring key information is captured in relation to their background and cultural significance.

Lovett said it was a privilege to work with the largest, oldest collection of Aboriginal crafted objects on Gunditjmara country.

“There’s a small collection at the Dunkeld Museum, the Glenelg Shire Council office in Casterton, and other small collections in Warrnambool and Portland, but to have a collection of Aboriginal objects of this size and age is quite rare.”

Hamilton Gallery is the only gallery in Victoria to have had an identified officer as part of the state’s Regional Gallery Digitisation Project, and the process has laid strong foundations for future partnerships between the gallery and Gunditjmara First Nations.

The Regional Gallery Digitisation Project was funded through the Victoria Government’s Working for Victoria initiative, born from the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with Creative Victoria and Australian Museums and Galleries Association Victoria, regional galleries could benefit from human resources dedicated to digitising their assets, including the 9000+ collection at Hamilton Gallery.

Hamilton Gallery Artistic Director, Joshua White, said; “This is just the first step in developing a strong connection to the First Nations people of this region. Denise has been wonderful to work with and has not only taught our staff and myself about these objects, but about Gunditjmara people and country.”

The gallery will also provide advice to Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation on the care and maintenance of the Aboriginal objects in the Keeping Place recently built at Lake Condah Mission.