Assessing Significance

What is ‘significance’?

Significance means the historic, aesthetic, scientific and social values that an object or collection has for past, present and future generations.

Significance refers not just to the physical fabric or appearance of an object. Rather, it incorporates all the elements that contribute to an object’s meaning, including its context, history, uses and its social and spiritual values. When you consider this information you can draw informed conclusions about why an object is significant. Significance is not fixed – it may increase or diminish over time.

What is significance assessment?

Significance assessment is the process of studying and understanding the meanings and values of objects and collections.

Significance assessment is a practical and effective process that helps you clearly articulate the value and meaning of objects and collections, and make sound judgments and good decisions about conserving, interpreting and managing them, now and into the future.

The process can be applied to a single object, specific or whole collections within a museum, collections across a region, or even across the country.

The process

Significance assessment involves three simple tasks:

  1. analysing the object;
  2. understanding its history and context; and
  3. identifying its value for communities and associations with places.

Download Significance - a guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections