Collections review – the Spectrum standard

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You should have a policy on why and how you carry out collection reviews. This might form part of a wider collection development policy that takes an integrated approach to acquisition and disposal, particularly if the aim of your reviews if to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your collection. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:

  • Why might you carry out collection reviews?
  • What legal and ethical considerations will you take into account (eg Museum Association Code of Ethics)?
  • Which parts of your collection are priorities for review?
  • Who is authorised to carry out collection reviews?
  • Do you have all the skills you need, or will you need expertise from outside your museum?
  • Are there opportunities for you to take part in wider projects, such as regional or subject-specific reviews?
  • How will the results of collection reviews be reported and considered?
  • How will you make the results of collections reviews accessible to others?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when a collections review takes place. 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 create and file a written plan for each review that includes the methodology to be followed, the criteria to be assessed and the scoring system to be used. There is no point recording that the significance of an object is ‘3’ if nobody else knows what that means.
You record the date of each object assessment and the person responsible for a scoring decision. You know when an object has been reviewed by someone with specialist curatorial expertise.
You record the relevant numbers of each object (or group of objects) assessed. It is clear which scoring decisions relate to which objects.
You add review assessments to your catalogue. When looking at an object record you can see that it has been reviewed and you can find the relevant information.
You analyse the results of collection reviews and recommend appropriate follow-up action. Reviews can inform your strategic planning.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust