Loans in (borrowing objects) – suggested procedure

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You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when you borrow objects. 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.


Loan research


Make the case for borrowing the objects and obtain authorisation.

Your loans in policy should set out when your museum might borrow objects, and how any proposed loans should be authorised internally before you approach potential lenders.


Send a loan request to the lender.

Loan requests should be in writing and submitted as far in advance as possible, bearing in mind that lenders often specify minimum timescales for processing loans. Depending on the lender, this may take months, or even years, so you should allow for this in your project planning.

Loan requests should include:

  • Dates of proposed loan.
  • Venues for proposed loan.
  • Context and purpose of proposed loan (including such information as the themes of a proposed exhibition).
  • Lender’s name and address.
  • Contact name and details.
  • Object numbers of requested objects.
  • Brief descriptions of requested objects.
  • A statement of the intended insurance or indemnity.

All correspondence and additional information about the loan should be maintained in a related file, accessible at least by lender name and loan number. Record the Document location of this file, so that you and others can find it in future.


Record details of request.

Record the following from your loan request:

Loan in information

Object identification information

If you are borrowing from, for example, a private individual, and there are no lender’s object numbers, you should assign a temporary number of your own to each item. This could be in two parts separated by a dash: first the Loan in reference number, then a sub-number for each individual object borrowed from the same lender.


Maintain an up-to-date record of the status of the loan throughout the process.

Exchanging further information


Complete and send a facilities report to the lender.

If the lender agrees to consider the loan, provide further information on your venues as required. The lender is likely to ask you for a facilities report, and may send you a blank form for this or ask you to use a template such as the one developed by the UK Registrars Group.


Obtain further information for each object from the lender, and update loan file.

When the lender has agreed in principle to the loan, and as the list of objects to be borrowed stabilises, request further details of the objects and record them in the related file. The information for each object should include:

  • The lender’s object number (if applicable).
  • Object description.
  • The name and address of owner.
  • Its valuation.
  • Its condition.
  • Its display requirements.
  • Its environmental requirements.
  • Its handling requirements.
  • Any potential risks.
  • Its dimensions.
  • Photographs of it, for research.
  • Details of any relevant intellectual property rights and associated licensing requirements.
  • Any additional descriptive and historical information as required.
  • Exhibition number (if applicable).

It may be necessary to repeat these steps depending on conditions such as the availability of objects, security and environmental conditions.

Maintain the related file containing correspondence, object information, and any other documents, so that they can easily be found and referred to.


Agreeing the loan


Create and sign the loan agreement.

Finalise the conditions of loan. If you are borrowing from another museum it is likely that they, as the lender, will create the loan agreement. If not (eg you are borrowing from a private individual) create a loan agreement based on the agreed conditions (see Note 1).

When the loan is confirmed, appropriate agreements should be signed by lender and borrower. The agreement should refer to all conditions for the loan.

Add your copy of the signed agreement to the loan file, along with any other correspondence.


Record loan information.

Record, and add to the loan in information, the following:

Loan in information


Preparing to receive the loan


Schedule and prepare for the arrival of loaned objects.

This might include reserving a storage location, and briefing others on the conditions of the loan agreement. You will need to send the lender evidence of the insurance and indemnity cover arranged, arrange transport and obtain any other licences needed for the proposed use of the objects. Go to Object entry and from there to Location and movement control to arrange transport.


On arrival send a receipt and condition update to the lender.

Send a receipt to the lender to confirm arrival of the objects. Their condition should have been checked as part of the Object entry procedure, and to a level of detail required by the loan agreement, or by insurers or indemnifiers. If there are any problems, let the lender know immediately.

Add copies of this correspondence to the loan file.


If conservation work is needed, agree this with the lender.

If there is any damage to the objects, or if it was always planned that your conservators would do some work on the objects (eg cleaning ahead of an exhibition) go to Collections care and conservation.


Monitoring the loan


Monitor and report the condition of the objects during the loan.

Provide condition reports to the lender, as required by the loan agreement. If an object has been damaged, the lender should be informed immediately and provided with a full report. Go to Condition checking and technical assessment.

If required by the loan agreement, send environmental data (eg temperature and relative humidity readings) and other information about the objects’ location. Report any changed circumstances even if objects on loan are not directly affected (eg a breach of security in a location containing borrowed objects), and go to Location and movement control.


Extending the loan


Do you want to extend the loan?

If you want to extend a loan beyond the fixed term of the relevant loan agreement, go back to the steps for agreeing the loan. Both the request to extend and the lender’s response should be in writing, although you may not always need to draw up a completely new loan agreement. In any event, you should check that the information included in any existing agreement is still current. This might involve a new valuation and updating your insurance or indemnity cover. Loan extensions should always be for a fixed term.

If needed, go to Insurance and indemnity and potentially to Valuation.


Return and closure


Contact the lender to arrange for the return of objects.

Towards the end of the loan, arrange for the return of the objects. Confirm packing, transport and receipt arrangements as agreed with the lender. If the loan dates are being changed, consult the lender as soon as possible before an early return of the loan.


Carry out a final condition report on the objects.

Complete a final condition report on the object, taking photographs if possible, and go to Condition checking and technical assessment.


Return the objects to the lender.

Go to Object exit and from there to Location and movement control to arrange transport.


Confirm all loan conditions have been met and close the loan file.

Obtain written confirmation from the lender that all the conditions of the loan agreement have been met, and take any action needed if not (eg paying any outstanding fees). Make final changes to the loan information and maintain the loan file as a permanent record and audit trail of the loan.


Guidance notes


Note 1: Loan agreements

The Collections Trust website includes links to some examples of loan agreements. Such agreements usually include the following:

  • Object related information, including: standards of care, display, handling, usage (eg working exhibits, machinery), security and environmental arrangements, condition reporting and monitoring, agreement over the nature and extent of any investigative, intrusive or remedial conservation that needs to be carried out, the borrower’s right to take action (eg where a loaned object is found to be infested).
  • Insurance and indemnity requirements.
  • Costs and responsibilities, including: conservation, transport, staff time and unforeseen costs.
  • Terms of reproduction and intellectual rights.
  • Packing, transport, courier and other shipping requirements.
  • Arrangements for scientific research loans, including for purposes of destructive analysis or technical preparation. These should include a condition about the extent of destruction or preparation, and a statement of ownership of the products of this research. See also Note 2.
  • Additional terms and conditions as agreed with the lender, including: the method of acknowledgement for labels, the owner’s rights to their object during the loan period, the borrowing organisation’s non-acceptance of responsibility to trace the owner should circumstances change during the period of loan.
  • Renewal application date, if the loan is to be renewed.
  • Contact details, emphasising the responsibility of the lender to keep the borrower informed of any changes.

When borrowing from another organisation, the situation is likely to arise where the lender has a standard agreement for loans out and the borrower has one for loans in. The use of both agreements is not recommended, and the onus is on the borrower to accept the agreement of the lender as owner of the object. If necessary, draft a one-off agreement that covers all relevant points to the satisfaction of both parties.

Note 2: Scientific research loans

It is recognised that within scientific collections, loans are usually more frequent and less formal. Loans are usually organised under an international tradition, often discipline-specific. For example, you may already have established loan agreements with other bodies, or the loan itself may carry an agreement with it for return with the acknowledgement of receipt.

Date created: 2017

Publisher: Collections Trust