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Use this procedure to log all objects coming into your care for whatever reason, including loans, enquiries and potential acquisitions. The procedure provides a receipt, sets out your terms for accepting responsibility, gives the object an identifying number, and captures key information right away. It is especially important if you accept enquiries and potential acquisitions at the front desk and someone else will follow up later. Anyone who might receive an object in this way should know what to do and how to record the information you need.
You should take the same care of all objects you are responsible for, whether or not they belong to your museum. You might be held liable if you lose or damage such objects, even if you did not ask for them to be left with you (eg they arrive unexpectedly in the post). You need to record their arrival before you decide what to do with them.
In this procedure we use the term ‘owner’ to mean the person leaving the object with you, but this will not always be the case. If the depositor is someone else, make sure they have authority to act on the owner’s behalf.
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 why and how you receive objects and other material such as associated archives. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, you should include answers to these questions:
- In what circumstances will you accept objects into your care?
- Who is authorised to do this?
- What are your terms and conditions for accepting deposited objects?
- How long, and in what form, is enquiry information held?
You must also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when objects arrive at your museum. 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 can account for all objects left in your care.
|You do not lose track of objects left with you for a short time as enquiries.|
|You have clear terms and conditions for accepting objects into your care.||It is clear to owners what care you will take of objects they leave with you.
You do not end up being responsible for unwanted objects.
|You record why objects have been left with you.||You do not wrongly process a loan as an acquisition.|
|You schedule the default return of objects to their owner if they are not to be acquired or loaned.||You can plan for the return of objects.
You do not end up looking after objects whose status is unclear.
|You record who legally owns objects left with you.||You can deal with the right person if you want to acquire an object and obtain legal title to it.|
|You record as much significant information about newly-arrived objects as you can, to be added to in the future.||You do not lose the opportunity to find out about objects while their owner is in your museum and ready to talk.|
|Both you and owners know your liability for loss or damage while objects are in your care.||Owners are aware of the limits of any claim they may make if anything goes wrong.
You do not take on liabilities that might create financial risks.
You provide a receipt for owners and get a signature to show they accept your terms and conditions.
|It is clear to owners that you have accepted care of objects they have left with you.
Owners cannot later claim they did not accept your terms and conditions.
|You can uniquely identify newly-received objects.||You do not mix up objects that look similar.|