11 April 2016: In addition to collecting his Bachelor of Arts and Design degree last week, University of Canberra graduate Hakim Abdul Rahim can also add detective and treasure-hunter to his title.
Mr Abdul Rahim, who also works as a research assistant with the University's Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, spent more than two years hunting through collections across campus, including unearthing a geological sample collection regarded as nationally significant.
"I was surprised at the huge diversity in the collections held by the University, most of them haven't been available for public viewing," Mr Abdul Rahim said.
During his studies, the 30-year-old received the inaugural Australian National Museum of Education prize for Heritage, Museums and Conservation in 2014.
Reflecting on his studies and work at the University, Mr Abdul Rahim described the geological sample collection he worked with as a one-of-a-kind find and a very interesting slice of history.
"The geological collection differs significantly from what you'd probably find anywhere else, because of the way it has been categorised," he said.
"It features samples of all the minerals that were found at Australia's major mining sites and was used in teaching economic geology, which is no longer taught at the University.
"The collection was gathered together many years ago and while it is no longer used regularly in teaching, it has been put away for safekeeping, but there was always a risk it could have been lost."
"It could be something as simple as the retirement of an older staff member and the significance or value of a collection is no longer recognised by new staff, then in an office clear-out it finds its way into a skip-bin and it's lost forever," he said.
The University has a number of nationally recognised collections including the National Children's Literature Archive and the Australian National Museum of Education collection, but the head of creative and cultural practice associate professor Tracy Ireland said some of the less well-known collections are quite spectacular.
"The University gathered a significant collection of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander
"We also have the University's heritage Teaching Collection, which along with the other collections across the campus are used educating our heritage, museums and conservation students and building their hands-on experience.
"Students have been able to treat and preserve everything from natural fibres used in Aboriginal artefacts, to cleaning bird droppings from the portrait of a former Vice-Chancellor after an unfortunate 'avian break-in'," she said.
Dr Ireland said it would be wonderful to have all the various objects in the University's collections available for public viewing, but there are space constraints and the delicate nature of many objects to deal with.
"Like anyone else interested in cultural reflection and analysis, I'd love to have a huge exhibition space to open these collections up, but for the time being, the staff and students at the University are doing an astounding job preserving these collections so, I hope that one day they can be experienced by wider audiences."
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