Managing archives in museums

Many museums collect and hold ‘archives’. In the museum sector these collections fall into two distinct groups:

  • True archives – an accumulation of unpublished historical records containing primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organisation’s lifetime, and are kept, after a process of selection, to show the function of that person or organisation. These have been generated as a product of regular legal, commercial, administrative or social activities.
  • Archival material – in museums this group may be referred to as ‘the archives’, or may be stored and displayed alongside 3 dimensional museum objects. It usually consists of groups of objects, such as photographs, diaries, and posters which may have a connection with an individual or organisation, but do not illustrate the function of that person or organisation over time. The link between different museum archive objects may be tenuous or not exist at all.

Using the collections at the Canal & River Trust as a case study, and practical examples from The Waterways Archive, this webinar explores good practice in the management of both archives and archival material, using PAS 197: code of practice for cultural collections management and the concept of the Collections Management Framework. The webinar explores the application of archival and museum management methodologies within a museum context, and the application of the Spectrum standard to archival material.

By the end of this webinar participants will be have understood:

  • The differences between an Archive and archival material in museums
  • Appropriate management methodologies for Archives and archival material
  • Making decisions about managing Archives and archival material in museum collections within a PAS 197 Collections Management Framework

The webinar presenter is Margaret Harrison, a freelance museum consultant, who has been working with The Waterways Archive at the National Waterways Museum to develop policies, plans and procedures to meet PAS197 and Accreditation standards. Margaret works with museums of all types and sizes providing them with practical help to achieve Spectrum and Accreditation standards. Margaret worked for MDA and then Collections Trust for 8 years as a Collections Management Adviser, and is co-author of Documentation: A Practical Guide published in 2008 by Collections Trust.

Date created: 2014

Author: Margaret Harrison

Publisher: Collections Trust