Collections

From Our Toolkit

Collections matter to people. The millions of objects held in museums across the UK can be sources of knowledge, pride, inspiration, controversy and opportunity for audiences, communities and researchers.

Museums Association, Empowering Collections, 2018

This section will look at all aspects of managing and caring for your collections. Many of the resources in this topic are drawn from the heritage sector and refer to museums and archives but the advice given is equally applicable to any organisation which holds a collection.

Different approaches

Wherever possible, and where they differ, we have included information that reflects the different approaches in museum and archive practice. They are also aspects of collection work where the principles across both these types of institution are broadly the same. In this instance only one set of guidance is provided.

When looking after your collection you will need to decide whether you wish to take a museum or an archive-based approach. For support in helping you to decide which approach is right for you see The differences between the museum and archive approach page below.

Be consistent

Whichever approach you decide upon, the key to good collection management and care is consistency. Develop your procedures, write them down and stick to them. This will make it easier to involve more people in your work, to meet the ascribed standards for collections and make it easier for people in the future to understand how your collection has developed and been cared for.

Be patient

Managing and caring for collections can be a time consuming task. Time invested in this work is never time wasted. It will pay dividends in the end but it is vital you are realistic about how much you can achieve within any given timeframe. Much of the advice in this section can be adapted to suit your capacity and resources and it is worth spending time scaling it to suit your organisation before you start.

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