What do we mean by collections?

From Our Toolkit

As part of their definition of a museum, the International Council of Museums, proposes that  collections are the “tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment” which are collected “for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.” 

The International Council for Archives define an archive in slightly different terms:

Archives are the documentary by-product of human activity retained for their long-term value.  They are contemporary records created by individuals and organisations as they go about their business and therefore provide a direct window on past events. They can come in a wide range of formats including written, photographic, moving image, sound, digital and analogue. Archives are held by public and private institutions and individuals around the world.

You may not think you have a collection, or a significant collection but when seen in these terms we use the term collection to mean any group of objects, documents, memories or testimonies that relate to a certain subject, time, story or person. Collections are not defined by the number of items, the type of items or the subject they relate to, what makes them a collection is a common theme or connection.

There are naturally a similarities and differences between the definitions provided by museum and archive councils. This continues throughout the work of museums and archives as the contribute and maintain material in the historical record.

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