Numbering systems

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    • #132281

      I work for a small county museum and the numbering system adopted 75 years ago is basically 1 2 3 4 on so forth. Issues I currently have with this system are: some of the collections have the same accession number differentiated by an  A or B ; and secondly the numbering system established 30+ years ago for archival material has not been used since then and has not been documented with the exception of a small container of 3×5 cards. Is it better to try and fix these areas or begin a new numbering system.





    • #132285

      We had a similar situation and decided to renumber everything with the YYYY.GGGG.IIII (year, gift item) system. We have noted any old numbers in our computer entry of the item. Trying to understand and maintain the old systems was just too confusing.

    • #132284

      In the UK the numbering system YYYY.NNN is recommended, where the object is numbered by the year of accession into the collection, then a dot, then the number  (from 1,2,3). Parts of an item are then subnumbered YYYY.NNN.1, YYYYY.NNN.2 etc, with the main part of the item being 1.   More detailed guidance is at

      There is a factsheet on renumbering on the Collections Link website. The link seems to be broken  but I hope it will be fixed today. See

      And for one curator’s entertaining (and helpful) view of their numbering problem, try

      Hope this helps

    • #132283
      Joe German

      We had the same issue earlier this year when we decided to convert our Excel inventory to DB software. We concluded it would be a huge amount of work to properly renumber a sequential system to AccessionYear.Accession#.Object#. Also, we didn’t any accession paperwork for many objects.  Instead we used for everything the new format with 1983 as the accession year (when we were founded), made the second number 01 and let the object number be the third position.  So we kept the old numbering but within the new format which we will use thru the end of 2013. Starting 1/1/2014 we will use the actual accession year and accession number within year.

      For objects with the same number but letters we dropped A’s and replaced B with .1, C with .2, etc. We reserve letters for single objects with multiple pieces.

    • #132282
      Becca DuBey

      Our county historical society began in 1905, and we’ve used about 6 different numbering systems, some with letter and number combinations with all sorts of variations in the use of spaces, slashes, and dashes.   All of this was entered into Past Perfect by a volunteer.  Finding anything was a mess.  I’ve undertaken renumbering everything with the usuall YYYY.C.I (year, collection in the year, and artifact within collection).  We use Past Perfect, and their suggestion of assigning a unique number to everything, including one number to each of a pair of shoes is very easy with their release of version 5, which allows duplication of entries.  I also record both (yes, both) of the former numbers, consistantly under “old number” and “other number,” both of which are searchable.  I’ve gone back to the original registers and paper work, and it  has gone well.  When it is completed, I will have a nice, usable system, that I will praise each time I use it.  Well worth the effort. 

      For artifacts found in the collection, they are given the accession Number FIC.year found. and sequential number.  When matched, the number will be retired.  This way everything is found under one accession number and easily changed.  Numbers missing from the FIC collection will be understood as an object re-united with its original number.

      I’ve given up on leading zeros; too hard on the eye!

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