Location and movement control (Spectrum 5.0 consultation draft)

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Use this procedure to keep a record of where all the objects in your care can be found, and to update the location each time an object is moved. As well as recording when objects move in and out of your museum (during other Spectrum procedures) you should also keep track of them within the museum too.

For this you will need to have an agreed system of naming all the buildings and rooms within them where your objects might be (eg stores, galleries and conservation labs). This procedure also records environmental conditions within these spaces, so you can be sure they are suitable for the objects kept in them.

Within each space you should be able to record the exact location of each object with appropriate precision (eg specific boxes, shelves, drawers and display cases).

Following this procedure promptly keeps your location records up to date, which is the key to being accountable for your collections. Ideally, your system will also record where objects have been located in the past. This can be useful, for example, if you notice pest damage or some other change in an object’s condition and you need to investigate possible causes.

In many cases moving museum objects can be highly complex, especially when transporting them across international borders, and you may need specialist advice.

This is a Spectrum primary procedure. UK museums must meet the standard set out below to fulfil the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Scheme.

The Spectrum Standard

You must have a policy on moving objects within your museum and on recording the location of your objects whether in the museum or elsewhere. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, you should include answers to these questions:

  • How will you keep object location records up to date at all times?
  • How will you audit this?
  • Are there times when objects may be moved temporarily without updating their location records?
  • How you will keep location and movement records appropriately secure and confidential?
  • How you will ensure that objects are not moved into unsuitable locations?
  • Who can view and edit location and movement records?
  • Who can request and approve the movement of objects around your museum?
  • Who can move objects around your museum?
  • Are there restrictions about when objects may be moved? (eg not when visitors are around)
  • When will you undertake your own transport and when use external specialists?
  • When should a courier from your museum accompany objects in transit?
  • What standards of care will you apply to objects in transit, and are there any times when these might be varied?
  • Who is responsible for transport costs in different scenarios? (eg with loans the borrower normally pays)

You must also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when moving objects. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, and is available as a workflow diagram or as a text file you can edit. However you do it, your own procedure must meet the following minimum requirements:


Minimum requirement Why this is important See (cross-references to be added in final version)
You have a system of recording all locations where objects are displayed or stored within your museum. You can pinpoint the specific location of an object quickly and easily.

You can note locations that are not suitable for certain kinds of objects.

You have the records needed to monitor whether agreed environmental standards are being met. You can take action if the relative humidity in a store is too high.

You do not display a watercolour painting in too much light.

You have a record of the location where an object is normally displayed or stored. You know that every object has a suitable ‘home’ location.
You record every movement of an object from its normal home and update the location record in line with your policy. You know at all times where every object is.

You do not waste time hunting for objects that have been moved but not updated in your location records.

You can access location information by object number and location name. You know, at all times, what is in each of your exhibition spaces and stores, and where every object is.
You record who has moved objects (and who authorised those moves if required). Named individuals are accountable for moving objects.

Objects are not moved without authorisation.

You have as full a history of objects’ previous locations as practical. You can compile a list of all objects in a location at a particular time, which might later be needed for security or conservation reasons.
You assess any risks of moving objects (both to the objects themselves and to people) and, where needed, have a written plan to mitigate them. You do not cause an accident through lack of planning.

You can show you were not negligent should anything go wrong.

You have appropriate insurance or indemnity cover in place before transporting objects, particularly in the case of borrowed objects. You do not risk financial liability should anything go wrong.


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  1. In my experience, many institutions don’t view their collections as having a “normal” or “home” location; indeed this is often unrealistic, unachievable and/or unworkable. I don’t think it is practical to include this as a minimum standard. I would suggest it is far more important to place the emphasis on having a current location (with date) and on recording all current locations for different parts of the same object (such as a canvas and frame which may be separated for conservation purposes etc).

  2. General Comments Applicable to all procedures: The inclusion of references to policies is beneficial but many of the questions that should be covered are more procedural than policy and would sit better within an organisation’s individual procedures than at the higher policy level. It isn’t clear how these questions sit with PAS 197 and Accreditation and could be difficult to answer in a general collections management policy without this running into many pages. The use of simpler terms and clearer language again is to be welcomed but there is a concern about the use of ‘you’ throughout this document. Without defining this term it can easily be read as an individual and therefore places the emphasis on a single person within an organisation to take responsibility for all these activities. This is a change from Spectrum 4.0 where the emphasis was at an organisational level and allowed the document to be used for advocacy to Trustees and Senior Management for the importance of these activities and how they affect those at an organisational level. Without clarity that the responsibility sits at an organisational level through the definition of ‘you’ this has the potential to de-value the nature of these activities and reduce support from senior management.
    It would also be beneficial to include references to other sources of guidance and legislation in the supporting notes where applicable and available although this will vary from country to country.
    On this particular procedure – perhaps change from ‘home’ location to ‘original’ location or to ‘when an object is moved from it’s previous to current location’ as most organisations don’t have the luxury of leaving gaps for objects that have moved and this would make it difficult to meet the minimum requirements

  3. Under The SPECTRUM Standard, I would suggest adding ‘Who is responsible?’

    Under minimum requirement it is noted that who moves objects is recorded, the date should also be in the minimum requirement.

    On a practical note, how many museums have the luxury of enough storage for each object o have a normal ‘home’ location? Space is amongst the resources which are tight and having flexible stores is critical to making the best use of this limited resource. Whilst it is understandably best practice, to have it as part of the minimum requirement makes meeting this realistically unobtainable for many.

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Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust