Damage and loss – the Spectrum standard

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You should have a policy on how you deal with damaged and lost objects. 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:

  • Who within the museum should be informed if objects are damaged or suspected lost?
  • Who is responsible for taking action?
  • What internal checks should be made to locate objects that are missing from their recorded location?
  • Who decides at what point external bodies such as the police or insurers should be informed of suspected theft?
  • Who is responsible for dealing with any media interest there may be in an incident?
  • How will incidents be investigated and reviewed for lessons learned?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when objects are lost or damaged. 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 inform the owners of lost or damaged objects that do not belong to you. You are completely open with lenders and maintain trust even when things go wrong.
You record the circumstances of all incidents involving damage to, or loss of, objects as fully as possible. You will need detailed documentation for any internal review, insurance claim or police investigation.
Condition reports (including images) are made for damaged objects. This is the first step of planning appropriate conservation.
You can give police enough information about stolen objects (including images where possible) to identify them if they are later recovered. Criminals are likely to remove the object numbers from stolen items.
All decisions and actions in your response to damage or loss are fully documented. You can explain how incidents involving damage or loss have been handled in any later investigation or dispute.
Lessons learned from incidents are used to improve relevant policies and procedures. You will not repeat avoidable mistakes.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust