<ul><li>What makes a  museum  a museum and not just a random collection of stuff? </li></ul>
<ul><li>What stops an  object  from just being a passive ‘thing’? </li></ul>
<ul><li>A museum is a  legal  entity – we have a legal relationship to the objects in our collections </li></ul><ul><li>A ...
<ul><li>A  physical  object is the trigger for a series of meanings, interpretations and associations </li></ul><ul><li>A ...
A short history of MDA… <ul><li>The Museums Association sets up a Special Interest Group to look into these new-fangled  ‘...
The  real  history… <ul><li>Geeks play with  data </li></ul><ul><li>Sector creates  stock-control  for objects </li></ul><...
A note about: Accreditation <ul><li>Replaced the  Registration  Scheme </li></ul><ul><li>Four sections </li></ul><ul><ul><...
What is SPECTRUM? <ul><li>400+ pages long </li></ul><ul><li>A  procedural  standard – a more or less sequential list of pr...
How it works in practice <ul><li>When an object comes into the collection, give it a  unique number </li></ul><ul><li>Writ...
Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For users: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find objects in your collections & in store </li...
Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For your collection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor  sensitive or at-risk items in ...
Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For your museum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify objects for  exhibition </li></ul>...
The backlogs question <ul><li>A  backlog  is a perceived failure to keep your records as complete as possible </li></ul><u...
Backlogs <ul><li>A true backlog is a collection of objects for which there is no  information  at all, this is spectacular...
How to fix a backlog <ul><li>STEP 1  Define  your terms. What constitutes a backlog to your museum in the context of your ...
MDA’s work <ul><li>UK’s  focus  for expertise in the management of collections </li></ul><ul><li>Providing advice, guidanc...
What we believe <ul><li>We  love  museums. We love what they do and what they mean to people </li></ul><ul><li>We believe ...
Collections  Link <ul><li>550 standards, guidelines and factsheets </li></ul><ul><li>20+ publishers </li></ul><ul><li>16 a...
Cultural  Property  Advice <ul><li>Detailed guidance and checklists on restitution, repatriation, theft and spoliation </l...
The future <ul><li>We are at the beginning of the  next big thing  for museums </li></ul><ul><li>Variously called ‘ democr...
The future <ul><li>We will always need to document for  accountability , but the real value of documentation is using know...
The future <ul><li>Beginning to challenge some  perceptions  and learned behaviours </li></ul><ul><li>It is  OK  (essentia...
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New Collections Management

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Presentation to UCL students on the new framework of Collections Management, developed by the Collections Trust (then MDA) between 2005-7.

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New Collections Management

  1. 1. <ul><li>What makes a museum a museum and not just a random collection of stuff? </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>What stops an object from just being a passive ‘thing’? </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>A museum is a legal entity – we have a legal relationship to the objects in our collections </li></ul><ul><li>A museum is a social entity – we have a social/ethical relationship with the object </li></ul><ul><li>A museum is a creative entity – we extract meaning and connections from things </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>A physical object is the trigger for a series of meanings, interpretations and associations </li></ul><ul><li>A object of itself can inspire a reaction – aesthetic, emotional, non-rational </li></ul><ul><li>An object plus the information about that object becomes something active and descriptive </li></ul><ul><li>A collection of objects and their associations becomes a tool for narrating human history </li></ul>
  5. 5. A short history of MDA… <ul><li>The Museums Association sets up a Special Interest Group to look into these new-fangled ‘computers’ </li></ul><ul><li>The MDA becomes a separate body </li></ul><ul><li>Museum Object Data Entry System (MODES) is launched </li></ul><ul><li>1994 First edition of SPECTRUM , the UK museum documentation standard </li></ul><ul><li>2001 SPECTRUM Knowledge: A Guide to Knowledge Management for museums </li></ul>
  6. 6. The real history… <ul><li>Geeks play with data </li></ul><ul><li>Sector creates stock-control for objects </li></ul><ul><li>Both strands get formalised into SPECTRUM </li></ul><ul><li>SPECTRUM becomes a requirement of the Museum Accreditation Scheme </li></ul>
  7. 7. A note about: Accreditation <ul><li>Replaced the Registration Scheme </li></ul><ul><li>Four sections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Governance and management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visitor facilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collections Management * </li></ul></ul><ul><li>* Including SPECTRUM </li></ul>
  8. 8. What is SPECTRUM? <ul><li>400+ pages long </li></ul><ul><li>A procedural standard – a more or less sequential list of processes you will need to go through with the objects in your collection </li></ul><ul><li>An information standard – a formal information architecture which gives standard definitions for the kinds of information you will collect about an object </li></ul>
  9. 9. How it works in practice <ul><li>When an object comes into the collection, give it a unique number </li></ul><ul><li>Write down everything you know about it </li></ul><ul><li>Every time something happens to the object, write that down too </li></ul><ul><li>Rinse and repeat </li></ul>
  10. 10. Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For users: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find objects in your collections & in store </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Answer queries from people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respect the rights of others (eg. Data Protection) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unearth the histories of diverse/minority cultures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Helps create learning & other materials </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For your collection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor sensitive or at-risk items in the collection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prove legal ownership in the event of dispute </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trace lost or stolen items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inventory for insurance purposes </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Why document (the official list) <ul><li>For your museum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify objects for exhibition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Produce catalogues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increases credibility with funders and politicians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protects your rights (eg. Copyright) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enables collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creates persistent knowledge (when Bob moves on) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The backlogs question <ul><li>A backlog is a perceived failure to keep your records as complete as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Came about because we went mad with collecting between 1970 and 1990, but couldn’t be bothered with management </li></ul><ul><li>Backlogs can quickly become a millstone – because you don’t know what you don’t know </li></ul><ul><li>Backlogs are also used as a political weapon (you have to give us more money, look at the state of our backlog) </li></ul><ul><li>There is no such things as a ‘backlog’ </li></ul>
  14. 14. Backlogs <ul><li>A true backlog is a collection of objects for which there is no information at all, this is spectacularly rare </li></ul><ul><li>People usually mean that they have some objects which either haven’t been formally accessioned into the collection or which only have incomplete information </li></ul><ul><li>Incomplete information is fine – this is a long-term process, not a finite project </li></ul>
  15. 15. How to fix a backlog <ul><li>STEP 1 Define your terms. What constitutes a backlog to your museum in the context of your users </li></ul><ul><li>STEP 2 Backlogs happen for a reason – get your house in order and stop it growing </li></ul><ul><li>STEP 3 Your backlog should now be (a) smaller and (b) manageable. Get to it! </li></ul>
  16. 16. MDA’s work <ul><li>UK’s focus for expertise in the management of collections </li></ul><ul><li>Providing advice, guidance and training across 16 areas of collections management practice </li></ul><ul><li>From documentation to digitisation, copyright, legal compliance and electronic publishing </li></ul>
  17. 17. What we believe <ul><li>We love museums. We love what they do and what they mean to people </li></ul><ul><li>We believe that the UK enjoys the most vibrant and professional museum sector in the world </li></ul><ul><li>We believe that museums should enjoy the same profile and celebrity as any of the other creative industries </li></ul>
  18. 18. Collections Link <ul><li>550 standards, guidelines and factsheets </li></ul><ul><li>20+ publishers </li></ul><ul><li>16 areas of collections management practice </li></ul><ul><li>Freely available online at www.collectionslink.org.uk </li></ul><ul><li>Local-rate telephone advisory service on 0845 838 4000 </li></ul><ul><li>Give it a try! </li></ul>
  19. 19. Cultural Property Advice <ul><li>Detailed guidance and checklists on restitution, repatriation, theft and spoliation </li></ul><ul><li>Written by industry experts </li></ul><ul><li>For use by museums, private collectors and the art & antiquities trade </li></ul><ul><li>Coming soon at www.culturalpropertyadvice.org.uk </li></ul>
  20. 20. The future <ul><li>We are at the beginning of the next big thing for museums </li></ul><ul><li>Variously called ‘ democratisation ’ or ‘opening up’ </li></ul><ul><li>The idea is that the user community holds expertise and knowledge which should be used to interpret the collection </li></ul><ul><li>The curator may not have all the answers </li></ul>
  21. 21. The future <ul><li>We will always need to document for accountability , but the real value of documentation is using knowledge and information to create stories and connections </li></ul><ul><li>Opening up documentation to enable a two-way conversation with the community and with users </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation is becoming more closely integrated into service delivery </li></ul><ul><li>You will come across a sarky, conspiratorial attitude to documentation. Fight it. </li></ul>
  22. 22. The future <ul><li>Beginning to challenge some perceptions and learned behaviours </li></ul><ul><li>It is OK (essential) to get rid of stuff as well as collect it </li></ul><ul><li>We can be market-driven without dumbing-down </li></ul><ul><li>New technology creates as many problems as it solves – we need to step back from the bleeding edge and go for solid and dependable </li></ul>

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