NICOLAS C. CUADRA
SENIOR RESEARCHER, NATIONAL MUSEUM
• Collecting ethnographic specimens is essential
in the documentation of human cultures.
• An extensive research can be done based on
the collections with its relevant accompanying
information intact as human technology
develops through time.
• An ethnographic collection may be built or
augmented in a number of ways:
Donation / Gift / Bequest
• The collection should be carefully managed for
their physical well being and safety.
• Collection management refers to the museum
practices and procedures which allow the
acquisition, documentation, preservation, secu
rity, access and use, inventory, and the
management of the overall composition of the
• The specimen must be registered upon
• The accession number together with the
basic information about the specimen
should be logged in to the accession record
• It should be noted that the acquired
specimens are in good condition and/or
had undergone proper treatment.
• Assign accession number to each item
E – Ifu – 0001
E – Ethnographic item
Ifu – code for the ethnolinguistic group
0001 – assigned number for the item
The assigned accession number must
be written legibly and permanently on
the discreet part of the object where
it is not likely to be rubbed off and
where it is not too obvious especially
The accession number should be placed in an area
that does not impact diagnostic or aesthetic parts of the
Steps in labeling / accessioning:
• clean the area to be labeled
• place a thin coat of liquid eraser on
the labeling area
• let it dry, then write the number using
India ink or sign pen
• let the ink dry completely before
applying a top coat of natural nail
Every item should be labeled in the most
permanent method applicable to its
material composition. However, some
objects cannot be labeled directly; they
may too small or have unstable surfaces.
However, some objects cannot be labeled
directly; they may too small or have
Cataloguing is the process of recording all
basic information about an object.
The key purposes of cataloguing are
• to record information that is useful for
• organizing the entire collections; and
• providing information to researchers and
staff who wants to use them.
Front page of Anthropology Division catalogue card
Back page of Anthropology Division catalogue card
Each object should be photographed if
possible upon acquisition.
The specimen to be photographed should
include its accession number/ catalogue
number and a scale to determine the size
of the object.
0 5 10 cm.
If the condition of the object is not
normal, damaged parts should be clear
or visible in the photograph.
A standard camera can be used but a
digital camera is preferable for easy
uploading of images to the database.
• Master list
• Computer Database
The master list records all basic information about
the collection, e.g., catalogue number, name of
object, description price, location, etc.
The master list can be updated anytime especially
when the inventory of the collections is ongoing.
A hard copy of the master list should be produced
and CD-written backups should also be made.
The database stores and displays various information
of the entire collection.
It should be protected with a password for security
reasons before anyone starts data encoding.
The data to be encoded may be the same data found
in the catalogue card.
There are different program applications for
database, choose which application suits best the
type of your collections.
Inventory is an important aspect of good
It is useful for updating location
information of specimens, identifying
conservation needs, and helping
researchers access particular items.
The object should be cross-indexed to the
existing inventory master list and individual
The object should be cross-indexed to the existing
inventory master list and individual catalogue card.
The following should be considered while cross-indexing:
• Corrections on the accession
number, measurements, and other significant data
should be recorded.
• Description of specimen found in the catalogue card
should be verified.
• Questionable specimens should be noted on the list.
• The location of specimen should be also noted on the
list and card for easy retrieval.
Conservation refers to the measures taken
to prolong the life of an object and its
physical, historic, and cultural significance or
value as long as possible in its original form.
One of the best approaches to conservation
is prevention. It may take less time, less
money, and less effort to slowdown or
prevent deterioration than it takes to repair
/ replace the material after they have
Prevention involves proper housing, storage, handling, and
constant monitoring and control of both physical and the
In the monitoring process, condition report is an essential
Condition reports may be used to:
• establish the exact condition of an object;
• benchmark the type and/or rate of deterioration;
• document the condition history and treatment;
• set priorities for conservation care and treatment; and
• make future handlers aware of seen and unseen problems.
A condition report should include:
• Accession number
• Name of object
• Object composition
• Types of damage (physical, chemical, etc.)
• Extent of damage
• Location of damage
• Previous conservation work
• Dates and reasons for damage (if known)
Storage is an area where the ethnographic
collections are placed.
The collection must be classified in this area
and grouped according to type of items
(jewelry, textile, ceramics, basketry, etc.) or
by material composition (wood, metal, etc.)
The overall storage environment is one of
the most important variables in the
long-term preservation and conservation of
Inappropriate rel. hum.
• LACK OF
• IMPROPER EXECUTION
Policies and procedures such as detailed risk
management plan should be in place to
address controlling and minimizing these
Their negative effects to the collection can
also be minimized through proper
training, decreasing handling of
objects, controlling access, maintaining
good housekeeping procedures.
Rules and regulations to be strictly observed within the
premises of the storage area:
1. Only authorized personnel should be
allowed to enter the storage room.
2. A logbook should be maintained to
record the incoming and outgoing of
staff, including the tasks performed
inside, and the items he/she brought
in and out of the storage.
3. Items should be arranged systematically for easy
4. Researchers who wish to
see, photograph, and/or study the collection
must secure permit from the curator.
5. Researchers should be briefed on the proper
handling of specimens before entering the
6. Food and drinks are not allowed inside.
7. Smoking is strictly prohibited.
ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT
Nicolas C. Cuadra
Senior Researcher, National Museum