Defining what you collect

From Our Toolkit

At the core of all collection management activity is a document which defines the scope of the material that you hold. A collection with clear parameters will be more cohesive, comprehensive and relevant to its subject than those without.

In museums this document is called an Acquisitions or Collecting policy in museums in museums and an Archive Collection policy or Records Collection policy in an archive. (Please note that this policy can be expanded upon this at Level 2 – for museums as a Collections Development Policy and for archives as a Record Collecting Policy.)

The value of a collecting policy

Adherence to a collecting policy means that as an organisation you can be confident when accepting or declining donations and be sure that the time and money you invest in your collection is being well spent.

Working with others to develop your policy

The development of a collecting policy should involve a people in all roles and levels of your organisation so you can capture all perspectives on your collection. Once the policy has been written and agreed it should be shared widely.

What information to record in your collecting policy – applicable to both museums and archives

In both museums and archives the information captured in your collecting policy is broadly the same.  A basic policy would include the following information:

  • Details about your organisation
  • Background to your existing collection (to provide context for future collecting)
  • Type of material you collect
  • Geographic area your collection cover
  • Themes you collect
  • Time period within which you collect
  • Exclusions to any of the above and why for example material relating to an event or person where the main collection sits with another organisation; material which overlaps with another collection etc
  • How you accept items into your collection

Additional information for archives

The National Archives have produced a summary document to explain the impact of the Data Protection Act of archives.

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