Managing cultural heritage

A snow covered iron pot
A snow covered try pot at station (Photo: Kerry Steinberner)
Colman's Mustard and Capstan Tobacco tins plus packet of Tabloid Dover Powder on shelf in Mawson's main hutBlack and white image of the weathered exterior cladding of Mawson's Main Hut

Cultural heritage management, like stewardship of places with natural heritage values, involves distinct phases of assessment, management and monitoring. What are being assessed, managed and monitored are the heritage values of significant places and objects.

Australian law and best practice standards require the AAD to take a values-based approach to looking after our cultural heritage. We identify which of our places have cultural heritage significance by applying the same sort of criteria that are used to assess other Australian heritage sites. Places and objects may qualify as “heritage” because of their historic importance, because they are rare, they provide an opportunity for research, are particularly representative of a type, have aesthetic appeal, are evidence of creative or technical achievement, or have associations with social groups or significant people.


The purpose of cultural heritage management is to understand, preserve and provide access to culture, and so to better make sense of the present.

We understand the past and the present primarily though oral history and traditions, documentary records (written, pictorial and archival), and other material manifestations of human interaction with the environment. Key manifestations are sites, monuments, objects and buildings.


The focus of cultural heritage management is the evidence provided by cultural resources and traditions. Cultural heritage activities are concerned with the material or behavioural manifestations of cultural practices (also known as cultural material, cultural resources and cultural property).

These consist of:

  • Moveable cultural heritage objects (artefacts): including those associated and not associated with a site, building or other places. The AAD maintains an Antarctic artefacts database.
  • Heritage places: including buildings and groups of buildings, cultural landscapes, sites, monuments, shipwrecks, stations, precincts, archaeological sites and other places both from history and prehistory.
  • Traditions, events and activities: including long-distance traverses, memorials for lives lost, exchanges with researchers from other nations, and regular changeover celebrations and mid-winter dinners.