Documentation underpins every aspect of museum activity. Recording collection information is central to being accountable for our collections, their accessibility, management, research, study and use.

Our policy for the documentation of the collections is to ensure that the information we hold relating to the collections is accurate, secure, reliable and accessible. You can see our Documentation Plan here.

Many of our existing records are paper-based. In order to improve access and accountability, we will enter all new records onto computerised databases. Over time and in a phased programme, we will convert our older paper records to a computerised format, ensuring also that copies are kept in a safe separate location.

We take a common-sense approach as to the level to which we document material. Ideally for the majority of the collections, especially those that have high monetary or scientific value, our curatorial staff will document to individual item level. However, for certain collections, such as bulk archaeological excavation material or large natural science fieldwork collections, it is not practical to document the material in this detail, and for these, we document items at group level. We aim to have a basic ‘inventory’ record for all identified items and groups within the collection, whilst some items are documented to a more detailed ‘catalogue’ level.

  • Inventory level: This includes sufficient key information to allow any object(s) in our care to be individually identified and verified. All accessioned items, loans inward and outward, and any other unaccessioned objects as appropriate are documented at this level.
  • Catalogue level: Departments will identify the collections that merit further, more detailed, documentation, thus raising the standard of information to catalogue level. Such documentation will include the known history of a specimen, and references to any relevant publication etc.
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