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You should have a policy covering the use of collections (sometimes called a collections access policy). This should be compatible with your collection care policy, your collection information policy and your collection development policy – ideally as part of an integrated collections management framework. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:
- What is your museum’s mission?
- How will you use your collections, and make them available for others to use, in line with your mission?
- What legal, ethical or other issues might need to be taken into account when considering proposed uses of your collections?
- Who can authorise the use of your collections, including reproductions?
- How will you make information about your collections available?
- How will you make your collections physically accessible to researchers?
- If relevant, how will you deal with research requests that involve taking samples of material for destructive testing?
- What is your approach to licensing material, such as images, for which you hold sole rights?
- Will you use material that is in copyright (or likely to be) if you cannot contact relevant rights holders for whatever reason?
You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing the use of your collections. 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 a system for making, reviewing and authorising requests to use objects and reproductions.||Your objects are not put at risk by being used inappropriately, and there is an audit trail in case of any problems.|
|You note each use of an object or reproduction, and can access this information via the relevant object number or reproduction number.||You can let key stakeholders know how much your collections are being used.
You do not over-expose a light-sensitive object by not recording how long it has been exhibited.
|Your system prevents objects being booked for more than one use at a time.||You can coordinate the use of your objects, particularly in larger museums.|
|You keep a record of researchers and other people who have used specific objects.||You can audit items used by a particular user if any security concerns arise in future.|
|You add any knowledge gained and content created while using objects or reproductions to your catalogue.||You can re-use exhibition texts to enhance your online collections information.|