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Use this procedure to check you have the basic information to be accountable for the objects in your care. If your museum has always met the minimum requirements for the other primary procedures, the answer will be yes and you should just keep up the good work. Keeping on top of these other procedures will maintain your inventory information. If the answer is no, this procedure will help you tackle the backlog.
Although some museums may need to add to this list to distinguish between large numbers of very similar objects, the core inventory information you need for each object (or group of objects) is:
- A unique object number (from which it should be clear whether the object is from your accessioned collections, on loan, or has some other status such as a handling item) – Object number.
- An object name – Object name.
- The number of objects (if a group) – Number of objects.
- A brief description (or image) – Brief description.
- The current location – Current location.
- If not your museum, a record of who owns the object – Current owner (and, if your museum does own it, a record of where it came from).
- A note of who recorded this information and when – Recorder and Recording date.
You will know when it makes sense to group your objects together. An example might be a cabinet of pinned insect specimens acquired as a single accession. For inventory purposes, you might record the whole cabinet and note how many specimens are in each drawer.
This procedure is about being able to list all your objects if and when you need to. If your collection has been well documented from the start, the information will be spread between accession registers, catalogue records, object entry forms, loan forms and other records. It might never get brought together into a single list, but it could be without too much difficulty.
If your collection has not been well documented, and you do not have this minimum information (even for groups of objects where appropriate), you should read the guidance below and develop a policy and procedure appropriate to your own museum. Your governing body should aim to achieve the minimum standard for this procedure within an agreed time period, and do all it can to make this happen.