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You should have a policy on how you maintain inventory information for all the objects in your care. 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:
- Where is key inventory information held in your documentation system?
- Does your numbering system meet the minimum requirements of this procedure?
- How will you make sure this information is kept up to date?
- How will you audit inventory information?
- If you do not meet the minimum requirement, how will you achieve it within the next five years?
- How will the governing body enable this to happen?
You should also have a written procedure that explains either how you will keep your existing inventory information up to date or how you will tackle your inventory backlog. 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 have met the minimum requirements for all other primary procedures.||You are not creating a new backlog of objects without basic information.|
|From the various records in your system you could, if required, produce a complete list of every object (or group of objects) in your care.||You can account for every object you are responsible for, including your own collections, loans and items temporarily left with you.|
|Every object (or group of objects) has a unique number securely associated with it, linking your records to the physical items they describe.||You can identify the object you are looking for among a shelf of similar objects.|
|If a unique number refers to a group of objects, or one object with several parts, you record the number of individual items.||You can quickly make one inventory record for a drawer containing many insect specimens, or for a box containing many pot sherds.|
|Every object (or group of objects) has a recorded name and brief description (or image).||You know broadly what each object is (eg pot, postcard, drawer of butterflies) even if it has not been catalogued in more detail.|
|You know the current location of every object (or group of objects) and when it was noted there.||You are able to find objects when you need them.
You could produce an accurate list of the objects in a location if needed for an audit or insurance claim.
|You know who owns each object (or group of objects) in your care, and how they came to be in your care (eg acquired, on loan).||You can contact the owners of objects due to be returned.
You have no ‘orphan objects’ whose ownership is unclear.
|If you have more than one type of collection (eg accessioned objects and a handling collection) you know which collection an object belongs to.||You can make appropriate decisions about how to use objects.|
|If you do not currently meet the above requirements, you have an appropriate plan to do so within an agreed time period.||Your governing body can meet the minimum standard of accountability for the objects in its care.|