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Object entry – the Spectrum standard

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You should have a policy on why and how you receive objects and other material such as associated archives. 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:

  • In what circumstances will you accept objects into your care?
  • Who is authorised to do this?
  • What are your terms and conditions for accepting deposited objects?
  • How long, and in what form, is enquiry information held?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when objects arrive at your museum. 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 can account for all objects left in your care.

You do not lose track of objects left with you for a short time as enquiries.

You have clear terms and conditions for accepting objects into your care.

You do not end up being responsible for unwanted objects.

You record why objects have been left with you.

You do not wrongly process a loan as an acquisition.

You schedule the default return of objects to the owner if they are not to be acquired or loaned.

You can plan for the return of objects.

You do not end up looking after objects whose status is unclear.

You record who legally owns objects left with you.

You can deal with the right person if you want to acquire an object and obtain legal title to it.

You assess and mitigate any potential risks to people or other objects from incoming objects.

You can quarantine items potentially infested with pests that could damage your existing collections.

You record as much significant information about newly-arrived objects as you can, to be added to in the future.

You do not lose the opportunity to find out about provenance or likely copyright holders while their owner is in your museum and ready to talk.

Both you and owners know your liability for loss or damage while objects are in your care.

Owners are aware of the limits of any claim they may make if anything goes wrong.

You do not take on liabilities that might create financial risks.

You provide a receipt for owners and get a signature to show they accept your terms and conditions.

It is clear to owners that you have accepted care of objects they have left with you.

Owners cannot later claim they did not accept your terms and conditions.

You can uniquely identify newly-arrived objects.

You do not mix up objects that look similar.

Date created: 2017

Publisher: Collections Trust