Here you can find answers to some frequently-asked questions about Spectrum. If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What is Spectrum?

Spectrum is for museums of any size and any collection type, and may also be useful to similar institutions with museum-like collections. It gives tried-and-tested advice on the things most museums do when managing their collections. Some of these are daily activities, such as moving objects around and updating location records. Others are occasional, like updating insurance cover. Spectrum calls all these activities procedures and there are 21 of them.

What are the primary procedures?

There are nine primary procedures. These are the ones that most museums will use most of the time. UK museums wanting to meet the requirements of the Accreditation scheme will have to demonstrate that they meet, or have a plan to achieve, the Spectrum standard for all nine.

Can I download Spectrum?

Yes, but not all as a single document. You can get a free PDF download of each individual procedure by going to the one you want (eg Object entry) and opening up any of the three parts that make up the web version of each procedure (eg Object entry scope, Spectrum standard and suggested procedure). These PDFs include all three parts, including both the text and workflow versions of the suggested procedure, so you only have to download once per procedure. From the suggested procedure part you can also download just the workflow diagram if you prefer.

Is there a printed version?

Yes! The full standard comes in two printed volumes. The first contains all 21 procedures, while the separate appendix describes all of the units of information. For those who just want the basics required for Accreditation, there is a separate printed version of the nine primary procedures. To order, please visit our online shop.

Where can I go for further advice?

Previous editions of Spectrum have included references to further sources of advice, other relevant standards, codes of practice and legislation. To keep this information more up to date than is possible in print, links to these are now maintained in the resources area of this website.

Is training available?

Our Outreach Officer, Sarah Brown, delivers free Spectrum-based training as part of our ACE-funded work with the museum development network across England. See your local museum development training programme for events coming up near you, or check out what’s on here. We can deliver training elsewhere on a consultancy basis.

Is Spectrum available in other languages?

Spectrum originated in the UK and is used by all Accredited museums there, but in recent years the standard has been adopted by a number of other countries and translated into several languages. For links to these, together with information about which version of Spectrum each translation was based on, see Spectrum around the world.

Is Spectrum software?

No, Spectrum itself is a standard. You do not need a computerised system to put Spectrum into practice, nor to meet the requirements of the Accreditation scheme. Some smaller museums manage  with entirely paper-based systems. However, most museums these days use a mix  of paper (especially when signatures are needed) and some kind of collections management software.

Many of our commercial Spectrum Partners have developed collection management systems that support some or all of the Spectrum procedures. From the wide range now available you should be able to find one suited to your museum’s needs. You can compare the systems offered by our Spectrum Partners at our choosing collections software tool. Many of these systems are Spectrum Compliant.

What is Spectrum Compliant software?

If software is Spectrum Compliant it has a place for every unit of information you might need to record for any procedure. There might not always be an exact one-to-one match between Spectrum units and system fields, but the developer will have shown Collections Trust how they map across. More importantly, the developer will be able to explain to you how to record any Spectrum unit using the system. Only systems validated by Collections Trust can call themselves Spectrum Compliant.

Is my collections management system still Spectrum Compliant?

Yes. All collections management systems currently validated by Collections Trust as being Spectrum Compliant will keep this status throughout a transition period that will last until 30 June 2019. During this time, we will validate systems against Spectrum 5.0 as and when our Spectrum Partners are ready to re-submit them. For a summary of the relevant changes see Information requirements – changes in Spectrum 5.0.