Art and artefacts

Our Art and Artefacts collection includes around 600 artworks and 500 artefacts which reflect expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Islander life, past and present.

The collection items come in a variety of objects, all of which have historic significance, and reflect many of the artistic traditions found across Indigenous Australia from the late nineteenth century to the present. We aim to use items in our collection to carry on the tradition of passing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge to future generations through art. Items contained in the Art collection can also be found referenced in other areas of our collection, including manuscripts, the print collection, sound, pictorial as well as the Australian Indigenous Language Collection.

Many items have become a part of the Art and Artefacts collection by donation or purchase, but our field research has contributed the largest number of collection items.


Significance statement... the Rom Ceremony Collection

Among the Anbarra and related groups across central Arnhem Land, the Rom ceremony is performed to cement goodwill between peoples as a form of diplomacy symbolised by the exchange of gifts.

The Rom ceremonial objects in AIATSIS’s collection were made for public rituals that affirm the strong and long established relationship between the Anbarra people of Arnhem Land and the Institute, dating back to the establishment of the Institute.

The objects are emblematic of the role played by AIATSIS in its active engagement with Indigenous society at large, and the Anbarra people in particular; and as a repository of Indigenous knowledge and objects that are made accessible to Indigenous communities and researchers. Consequently, the Rom ceremonial objects are of the highest social significance loaded with symbolism; they possess exceptional artistic and aesthetic attributes; and they were made for historically significant occasions.

Furthermore, their significance is enhanced when considered in combination with the wealth of related materials arising from AIATSIS sponsored research into Anbarra society and culture.

Wally Caruana
4 August 2014

Read the Whole AIATSIS Collection Statement of Significance by Significance International.

Last reviewed: 29 Apr 2016