The Golden Dragon Museum's collection of 30,000 items has been recognised with a Statement of Significance from curator and historian Sophie Couchman.
The statement comes as the City of Greater Bendigo invests $125,000 in the museums Collection Redevelopment Project to employer a collections manager over the next two years.
A $30,000 grant from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust will help provide particular materials the collections manager will need to undertake their specialised and detailed work.
"The preliminary work done by Sophie Couchman is actually showing us we have an amazing asset here in Bendigo," City of Greater Bendigo mayor Jennifer Alden said. "We already knew it was a wonderful asset culturally but the significance is not only locally, but also statewide and nationally with some items of international significance.
"The collections manager will be cataloging, conserving and looking at the storage and exhibition of the collection."
Golden Dragon Museum chief executive Hugo Leschen said the museums collection has been built up over 150 years with the next stage of the project to help ensure it is well catalogued, well recorded, well researched and well preserved.
"The dragons are the centre of the collection but it is much more than them - there are documents, photographs, jade, textiles, and all sorts of objects that amount to almost 30,000 items," Mr Leschen said.
"Employing a collections manager enables an expert to come in, who knows about the complexities of looking after and researching a collection of this type, so we can get it in place and ready for the planned redevelopment.
"Before we can do anything with the collection, we need to know what it is, where it is and what condition is in. That's an ongoing job but this will be a two-year intensive period with a collections manager."
Mr Leschen said, considering the size of the collection, it has been fabulously cared for.
"It's not to be feared it isn't in good condition," he said. "One of the challenges is that a lot of the material is ephemeral.
"Dragons are never made to last, they are paraded for a number of times and then traditionally destroyed - here they have been retired. But they are made out of bamboo, silk, paper mache and very soft, very easily damaged materials."
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Dr Couchman worked from January this year to analyse and research the Golden Dragon Museum's collection to write the Statement of Significance which outlines the values, meaning and importance of the collection.
She said the collection was strong and provided a deep insight into the Bendigo Chinese community.
"No other single collection in Australia is able to provide the depth of insight into a Chinese community as large as Bendigo's, in the detail it does, over such an extended time period," she said.
"A deep understanding of Bendigo's Chinese community helps us better understand the histories of Chinese communities around Australia and internationally and, through the connections of Chinese Bendigonians, helps us understand Chinese Australian social and business networking and mobility."
Mr Leschen said the collection is close to the heart of Bendigo residents and having a Statement of Significance would make the museum a bigger tourism drawcard.
"The collection is hugely important to the community," he said. "The community of Greater Bendigo loves this collection, the Easter Fair and everything that goes on here.
"The Statement of Significance tells us it is an important collection nationally and, in some cases, internationally. Partly because of the unbroken thread of three dragons but for other reasons as well. It is a very rich, very broad and very deep collection.
"The statement means other collections and institutions will look to us and our collection in a different way. It gives people - both locals and folks further afield - an opportunity to think about it again when they come to visit."
Cr Alden said the appointment of a collections manager would lay the foundation for the next stage of the redevelopment that could potentially include new buildings or bigger spaces.
"The assets here are crammed in and a require different setting," she said. "This lays the next stage and thinking of how that would go with a new building, bigger space and being able to do that justice in a national museum for the National Chinese Association. That is something that is a longer-term view.
"The storage issue sits behind this. We understand there are gems and treasures that are stored here and need the capacity to properly curate and preserve items. To do that we need the collection identified and that is part of this whole process."
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