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Damage and loss – suggested procedure

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You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when objects are lost or damaged. This suggested procedure is useful starting point. It is given as text and also as a workflow diagram. However you do it, your own procedure should meet the minimum requirements of the Spectrum standard.


Responding to damage


Follow the steps set out in your emergency plan.

Depending on the scale of the damage, follow appropriate steps outlined in the plan for immediate action.


Move the objects.

If practical move the damaged objects. Go to Location and movement control.


Assess the objects’ condition, and also care and conservation needs.

Provide conservators with relevant object records and previous technical assessment and conservation reports. Go to Condition checking and technical assessment.


Are the objects on loan?

If objects are on loan to you inform the owner immediately. File a copy of the correspondence and note the Document location so you and others can find it in future.


Record information about the damage event.

Record the following for each damaged object or group of objects:

Object identification information

Object entry information

  • The Entry number of loans and any other objects that do not belong to you (eg enquiries).

Damage/loss information

  • A reference number for the damage event – Damage/loss reference number.
  • Dates of discovery and reporting of the damage – Damage/loss date (use a standard format).
  • Name and contact details of those involved in the discovery and reporting of the damage:
  • How the damage took place – Damage/loss method (use a standard term source).
  • Other details of the damage – Damage/loss note, including:
    • The circumstances of the damage.
    • Details of the damage and references to any condition reports.

Inform senior staff, your governing body, and the press (if appropriate) in line with your policy.

File a copy of these notifications and note the Document location so you and others can find them in future.

Follow-up action when objects are damaged.


If relevant, inform your insurance company or indemnity provider.

Go to Insurance and indemnity.


Are the objects to be conserved?

If conservation work is needed go to Collections care and conservation.


Might disposal be considered?

If the damage is so bad that you might need to dispose of damaged objects go to Deaccessioning and disposal.


Responding to loss of objects


Implement your security procedure or emergency plan.

If appropriate (eg if a theft seems to have just taken place) put your immediate response procedure in place. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to alert the following quickly, even before the scale and nature of the problem is fully established:

  • Person responsible for the objects.
  • Internal security staff or volunteers.
  • Police (where appropriate).
  • External agencies or specialists.

Although the initial report may be verbal, a written report should be made as soon as is possible. Note all telephone conversations and file a copy of correspondence, recording the Document location so you and others can find them in future.


Confirm exactly what is missing.

Confirm the exact number and nature of the missing objects and retrieve all relevant documentation relating to them.

Go to Audit.


Are the objects on loan?

If objects are on loan to you inform the owner immediately. File a copy of the correspondence and note the Document location so you and others can find it in future.


Was the loss by theft?

If theft is known or suspected, provide the police with photographs and other descriptive material required to identify missing objects. You may also need to inform:

  • Your regional museum development organisation.
  • National Security Adviser at Arts Council England.
  • Online databases of stolen cultural property.

Record information about the loss.

Record the following for each object or group of objects following a loss:

Object identification information

Object entry information

  • The Entry number of loans and any other objects that do not belong to you (eg enquiries).

Damage/loss information


Follow-up action when objects are lost


Inform senior staff, your governing body, and the press (if appropriate) in line with your policy.

File a copy of these notifications and note the Document location so you and others can find them in future.


If relevant inform your insurance company or indemnity provider.

If the missing objects are covered by insurance or indemnity go to Insurance and indemnity.

Date created: 2017

Publisher: Collections Trust