This pillar comprises two parts, the first working with communities and institutions of long-standing collecting; and the second working with institutions and communities to build new collections.
When global institutions such as the Natural History Museum in London, National Museums Scotland, the British Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution began collecting items for their collections, they did so under the provenance of vast empires and with the sometimes-forced assistance of Indigenous, colonised, and/or enslaved people. Historians, in turn, relied on such collections as the evidence for their theories and work. While some of these institutions, and some historians, have begun a process of restitution, it has been slow and halting. The CCH works with Humanities scholars and Indigenous communities, connecting them with natural history and science curators. This work aims to advance the project of reconciliation by: 1. assisting scientists and historians to understand the imperial histories embedded in ‘pure scientific’ frameworks; 2. centring Indigenous ontologies in such collections; and 3. working with Indigenous communities to return precious knowledge to source communities.
Community needs for histories and collections is a growing demand for which CCH is catering. Current examples include: liaising with Indigenous communities on Wathaurong and Nyungar country about existing collections in international institutions; the Geelong Sports Museum’s formation; histories of sporting clubs; the history of the legal profession in Hong Kong at the end of empire; and archiving the Australian nuclear fuel cycle. All these projects feature CCH members working, on the ground floor, with local communities to build and showcase diverse collections.