What to do when objects where never accessioned?

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    • #133351

      I have a collection of photographs that is referred to as the Thornburg/Heaston Collection. These priceless photographs were glued, pasted, taped, and tacked into a multiplex panel display. There is no paperwork that goes with the photographs, I have searched and nothing. The problem is that the museum was started by a great group of people who wanted to preserve the local homesteading history, but did not keep records very well. I have figured out how to work through the record keeping madness. Over the years, the photograph collection was assigned random numbers, found in collection numbers, and some never numbered.
      I was wondering if there was a way that I could contain this scattered collection. I have thought about giving the collection its own accession number and “contain” them all in one space (so to speak). I also thought this would be a good idea, just in case there is more found in the years to come. I was just curious to see if there were others out there with the same problem and/or hear some ideas of what to do.

    • #133355

      AAM used to sell a book on this topic. If it’s not on their web site, try calling them to get the name —- or someone on this list may come up with the name! Unfortunately, many museums have this problem – a lot of it is loans that never got picked up. Sometimes it’s better not to accession such things, because then you have a legal responsibility for them. For non-accessioned things you may feel a moral obligation, but your hands are not tied if it’s something of little or no value or something not relevant to your mission.

    • #133354

      I would put new accesion numbers to them, since u have no findings from past years…or randomly numbered, so as to place them formally somewhere anyway. I would surely place new numbers not to lose track of them from now at least for future use, etc.

    • #133353

      Every museum has this problem. My organization set up a separate log book and temporary numbering system for “Items Found in the Collections.” This was for items that have no known paperwork so there is no way of knowing when they were received, or from whom, or what type of transaction it was (gift? loan? temporary custody never reclaimed? transfer?), or if it was an early donation that has lost its permanent catalog number, or somebody cataloged it and forgot to attach its permanent number. We hope someday we will find more information so that we can connect it up with a donor or a description of an already cataloged item, and restore its permanent number, but in the meantime, the temporary number at least allows us to keep track of it. Our temporary numbering system is similar to the catalog numbering system. In place of the year, we use zeros; the source number is assigned in sequence, starting with one and continuing on indefinitely; if you have items that are obviously related, consider them a collection from a single source and give them individual item numbers also. The number looks like this: “0000.187.14” (for the 14th item of the 187th object (a collection of related items probably from the same source) found in the organization’s collections for which there is no known documentation).

    • #133352
      Max Fenig

      I think always accession – it is important that your catalog is complete and you have an accurate record of your holdings

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