Use of collections – suggested procedure

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You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing the use of your collections. 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.


Evaluating the proposed use of objects or reproductions


Will the objects be loaned out?

If you receive a request that involves lending your objects to someone else go to Loans out (lending objects).


Create a record of the proposed use.

For all other uses of objects or reproductions (including proposals from within your museum as well as external requests), record the following information. You may have a standard form for recording use requests. Make a note of the Document location so that it can easily be found and referred to.

Use of collections information

  • A unique reference number for the use – Use reference number (use a standard format).
  • If applicable, any Use title (eg exhibition or book title).
  • Use type (eg exhibition, research) (use a standard term source).
  • Date of use:
  • Name and contact details of whoever is making the request:
  • Person within your museum responsible for dealing with the use – Use organiser (use a standard form of name).
  • Where the use is taking place, if not at your museum – Use venue (use a standard form of name).
  • Information about the use (eg details of online use or print run of a book) or user (eg their status) – Use request note.

Object identification information

And/or

Reproduction information

Details of each reproduction required for the use, including:

Use information

  • The status of the use – Use status (use a standard term source).

Initially, the status will be ‘requested’. Update as the status changes during the procedure.


Evaluate the proposal.

Following your policy, seek authorisation for the proposed use. As well as general policy considerations, there may be specific risks associated with individual objects (eg hazards) or reproductions (eg unknown copyright status). If these are not already recorded in the relevant catalogue records, authorisation at this stage may need to be provisional, pending further investigation and possibly expert advice.


Is the proposed use authorised?

When a decision has been reached, inform the person requesting or proposing the use. If the use is authorised, you may need a written agreement for the use (eg signed acceptance of research room terms and conditions, or a licence to use reproductions). If the use is not authorised, set out the reasons. Either way make a note of the Document location so that it can easily be found and referred to.


Using reproductions


Make sure any relevant rights are cleared or licensed.

If reproductions are to be used, you will need to ensure that any associated rights are dealt with: clearing any rights held by other people and/or licensing any rights held by you. Note that rights may exist both in the original objects and in reproductions of them. If so, these are likely to be held by different people and will need to be dealt with separately. Go to Rights management.


Photograph the objects if needed.

Assuming all rights issues have been dealt with, if you need new photographs of objects for the proposed use go to Reproduction.


Get information about objects.

If you need information about the objects depicted in reproductions, go to the relevant catalogue records. If you are writing new captions you can add these to existing catalogue records later in this procedure.


Using objects


If needed create a file for the project or activity.

Examples might include a project file for an exhibition, a researcher file or an operating log for a working exhibit. Make a note of the Document location so you and others can find it in future.

Keep a record of the stage of the use of an object, group of objects, or reproduction has reached during the use:

Use information

  • The status of the use – Use status (use a standard term source).

Initially, the status will be ‘requested’. Update as the status changes during the procedure.


Reserve the objects for the period of use.

Reserve the objects so they are available when you need them, particularly in a larger museum where someone else might also need them at the same time.


Check the condition of the objects.

To check that the objects can safely be used go to Condition checking and technical assessment.

If, as a result, conservation is needed go to Collections care and conservation.


Move the objects before and after use.

If needed, arrange for the objects to be moved before and, if applicable, after use, and update the relevant location records go to Location and movement control.


Documenting the use of objects or reproductions


Add relevant information arising from the use.

This might include:

Use information

Data associated with the use (eg environmental conditions, visitor numbers, online activity), recorded as needed by:

Any interpretive text created for the use:

Record new restrictions on use (eg may not be loaned, only accessible by staff, or not accessible by external researchers) which are a result of this use:

Use of collections information

  • A unique reference number for the use – Use reference number (use a standard format).
  • If applicable, any Use title (eg exhibition or book title).
  • The Use type (eg exhibition, research) (use a standard term source).
  • When the date when the use took place:
  • Who the User was (use a standard form of name).
  • Who within your museum was responsible for dealing with the use – Use organiser (use a standard form of name).
  • Details of the authorisation of the use:
  • Any conditions attached to the use – Use provisos.
  • Where the use is taking place – Use venue (use a standard form of name).
  • Use result (use a standard term source).
  • Any other information about the use – Use note.

If the use involves gathering information or other responses from your museum’s users, you might also add the following to the relevant catalogue records:

User’s contribution information

Date created: 2017

Publisher: Collections Trust