Documentation planning – the Spectrum standard

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You should have a written documentation policy (sometimes called a collections information policy). This should ideally form part of an integrated collections management framework – a coherent set of policy statements, plans and procedures that also includes the development, access and care of your collections. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:

  • What are the various elements of your collection information system (eg accession registers, forms, files, computer systems)?
  • What ethical obligations and other standards do you aim to meet, and how will you do this (eg your mission, Museums Association Code of Ethics, Accreditation, Spectrum)?
  • What legal obligations apply to your collection information and how will you meet them (eg data protection, freedom of information)?
  • How will you maintain your system to keep it up to date, secure, backed-up, and meeting the needs of your museum and its users?
  • What are your priorities for improving your collections information and how will you achieve them?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when carrying out planning and managing documentation projects. 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
Review the collections information you already have and agree areas for improvement in the light of your collection management priorities. You do not spend time and resources working on things that interest you but do not contribute to the wider priorities of your organisation.
You have a written documentation plan setting out specific objectives that can be achieved within a realistic timeframe given the available resources. You break down ‘the backlog’ into manageable projects that meet your wider objectives.

In the UK this is a requirement of Museum Accreditation.

You review progress towards achieving your plan’s objectives regularly. You can celebrate ‘quick wins’.

You are able to address any problems that might cause the plan to fail.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust