tracking archival materials on display

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    • #132471
      Charlene Martin

      Have any of you had the experience of starting a job in a museum & archive (no collection management policy, etc) that already has archival items like pamphlets, newspapers as well as old/rare books on display? I’d like to rotate these items with similar ones, seeing that 3 months is usually the max for cumulative light exposure, etc. They’ve never been rotated between 1980’s-present.

      Do any of you assign a museum collection accession # to these archival items while they serve as museum exhibit items, or do you have another tracking method, like separation sheets in the archival box and a note in the finding aid?

      Thank you!


    • #132475

      Well done for beginning the process of change they need for better care of their collections !

      All items in the collections should have an individual number, even if you have different numbering systems for your archive collection and museum collection. Everything that happens to the object should be recorded in the database against that number. So if an item is moved to a new location, that should be recorded, if it is loaned, or cleaned or exhibited or repaired or photographed, or brought out for researchers to study, those should ALL be recorded as part of the item’s history.  If such a system is not yet in place, than I would at least start with temporary numbers and photograph and record every item that was on display. You can assign the items permanent numbers once you’ve got your new system up and running, but at least have a record and get things going.

    • #132474

      Sounds so like my situation, but we have a library instead of an archive. For print materials (newspapers/magazines/advertising) I use our mission as a guideline, anything pre-1940 becomes part of my collection. Items donated that are newer and items having to do with the history of the Museum are part of the Library collection, that has their own recording system, or under the care of the “office” staff. Anything that becomes part of my collections is numbered and recorded as accessioned. I have had to tweak the existing numbering system to account for items with poor records, but after 1 year on the job systems seem to be in place and bring the collection under control.
      Good Luck and remember to record any and all of the changes you are implementing, I try to think of it as, if I walked away from my job is there enough info for someone else to just pick up where I left things?

    • #132473
      Charlene Martin

      Thank you for the ideas so far. After I completed my initial collections survey, I saw the makings of a library (including rare books), an archive, records collection groups, and a museum.


      In my experience, archival items like newspapers and pamphlets do not receive individual item numbers, but are cataloged under collection/series/folders. So how does this sound? After these archival items are rotated out of display, I retain the database museum accession record, and indicate their “retired” location as archival collection_____, series_____, folder_____. Any replacement archival materials will also receive an accession number for tracking purposes.


      Leanne, I agree about placing limits on what is allowed to be on display. I think I can make that possible with decent display replicas and duplicates.


      P.S – I’m definitely creating a manual, if not just to remember how/why I made certain decisions!




    • #132472
      Sharon F. Corey

      Charlene, I have also had the experience of starting a job in a museum & archive (no collection management policy, etc) that already has archival items as a volunteer. That is why I participate in as many online courses and webinars on this subject as I possibly can. I have purchased many books on the subject of Archives through Altamira Press and I found this manual online: A Manual For Small Archives  by the Archives Association of British Columbia.

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