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You should have a policy on cataloguing. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:
- What is your broad approach to cataloguing different parts of your collection (eg some parts catalogued as individual objects and others at group-level only)?
- Are you aiming to meet any external cataloguing standards (eg using templates, classifications or terminologies agreed within subject specialisms)?
- Beyond the inventory-level minimum, what should be in a ‘core’ catalogue record for different parts of your collection?
- If you have not already met your ‘core’ standards, what are your priorities for doing so?
- How will you ensure names, dates, places and other keywords are recorded consistently?
- What catalogue information will you make available to your users, and how?
- How will you protect confidential information, including personal data?
- For new accessions, what is your target time for creating the agreed ‘core’ catalogue record?
- How will you make sure that new information arising from other procedures is referenced in catalogue records?
You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when cataloguing objects. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, but however you do it, your own procedure should meet the following minimum requirements:
|Minimum requirement||Why this is important|
|You have a catalogue system in place that allows you to record the minimum information needed for the Inventory procedure and, beyond that, supports your cataloguing policy.||You have a basic framework to which you can add more significant information over time in line with your cataloguing policy.|
|Catalogue records are linked to the objects they describe via unique accession numbers that are securely associated with the items themselves.||You can always link objects to the information in their catalogue records.|
|Catalogue records cross-refer to relevant information held in your system (whether on paper or digitally) or available elsewhere.||All the relevant information about an object is available for its management and use.
You do not spend time researching an object unaware of previous work.
|Your system can reliably retrieve relevant catalogue information to meet the needs of users.||Your users can easily access information about your collections.
You do not waste time trawling through search results that are not what you wanted.
|You capture relevant information resulting from other procedures in a timely way.||Your catalogue records are up to date.
You can re-use exhibition text to improve your online collection database.
|You keep an up-to-date backup of your catalogue records.||You do not risk losing many years’ work in the event of a fire or other disaster.|