Understanding Collections Management


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Lesson plan and related slides from a half-day teaching session for a set of students at University College, London. The lesson covers a basic introduction to the principles and practice of professional museum, archive and library Collections Management

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Understanding Collections Management

  2. 2. Introductions Who are you? What is your background/profession? What do you want to get out of today?
  3. 3. Introductions Nick Poole CEO of the Collections Trust UK representative for Culture within the EC Councillor of the Museums Association Adviser to UK & international Govt agencies Lecturer in Museum Studies Financial Services background
  4. 4. About the Collections Trust <ul><li>Independent UK Charity </li></ul><ul><li>Campaigning for the public right to access and engage with Collections by: </li></ul><ul><li>Promoting Best Practice </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging Innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Representing the Interest of the Sector </li></ul><ul><li>17 staff </li></ul><ul><li>Based in London Bridge </li></ul><ul><li>30 years old last year </li></ul>
  5. 5. Structure Session 1. What is Collections Management? Session 2. Why do we do it? BREAK Session 3. How do organisations Manage Collections? Session 4. Collections and Information Q&A
  6. 6. Outcomes <ul><li>By the end of the lecture, you will: </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the professional discipline of Collections Management </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the main outcomes of managing Collections </li></ul><ul><li>Have an overview of Collections Management systems & processes </li></ul><ul><li>Gain an insight into the link between Collections and Knowledge </li></ul>
  7. 7. Session 1. What is Collections Management? Who needs to manage Collections?
  8. 8. Who needs to manage Collections? <ul><li>Museums </li></ul><ul><li>Archives </li></ul><ul><li>Libraries </li></ul><ul><li>Heritage sites </li></ul><ul><li>Historic Houses </li></ul><ul><li>Private individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Companies </li></ul><ul><li>Government departments </li></ul><ul><li>Essentially any individual or organisation with a legal responsibility for or ownership of a Collection, particularly where they intend to provide public access to that Collection. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Session 1. What is Collections Management? What kinds of activity might you need to do to manage a Collection?
  10. 10. Collections Management involves... <ul><li>A wide range of related activities including: </li></ul><ul><li>Collections development (acquisition, disposal, loan or transfer) </li></ul><ul><li>Risk management (conservation, security, environmental control) </li></ul><ul><li>Stock management (documentation, cataloguing, digitisation) </li></ul><ul><li>Access management (interpretation, rights management, knowledge) </li></ul><ul><li>Legal Compliance (evidence of ownership, good governance) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Collections Trust/BSI Code of Practice for Collections Management Organisation’s Mission Statement Collections Management Policy Collections Development Collections Information Collections Access Collections Care
  12. 12. Session 1. What is Collections Management? Can you think of any other sector/industry that does a similar thing?
  13. 13. Related practices <ul><li>Almost every industry responsible for managing large bodies of material has a discipline which resembles Collections Management: </li></ul><ul><li>Stock management in supermarkets </li></ul><ul><li>Inventory & Asset Registers in company finance </li></ul><ul><li>Supply Chain Logistics in retail & manufacturing </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge Management in consulting </li></ul><ul><li>IP management in media agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Can you think of similar practices in your profession? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Professional Collections Management <ul><li>Since 2001, Collections Management has emerged as a professional discipline in museums, archives and libraries . </li></ul><ul><li>Focussed on several professional standards: </li></ul><ul><li>Museum Accreditation Scheme </li></ul><ul><li>SPECTRUM standard </li></ul><ul><li>Public Library Annual Statistics </li></ul><ul><li>Archival Inspections </li></ul><ul><li>BSI Code of Practice </li></ul><ul><li>All seeking to codify and standardise best practice. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Session 2. Why do we Manage Collections? What are the benefits of taking a professional approach to Collections Management?
  16. 16. Benefits for the Public <ul><li>Publicly-owned Collections are properly inventoried </li></ul><ul><li>Collections are more secure and better looked-after </li></ul><ul><li>Taxpayer money is better used </li></ul><ul><li>Collections are more accessible and better-interpreted </li></ul>
  17. 17. Benefits for the Organisation <ul><li>Publicly-owned Collections are properly inventoried </li></ul><ul><li>Organisations can be confident in what they hold and why </li></ul><ul><li>Collections can be used more actively for display & education </li></ul><ul><li>Organisations can take a more strategic, planned approach </li></ul><ul><li>Investment can be better-targeted and have greater impact </li></ul>
  18. 18. Striking a balance <ul><li>Effective Collections Management is primarily a question of balance: </li></ul><ul><li>Between access and preservation </li></ul><ul><li>Between cost and public value </li></ul><ul><li>Between short, medium and long-term </li></ul>
  19. 19. Structure Session 1. What is Collections Management? Session 2. Why do we do it? BREAK Session 3. How do organisations Manage Collections? Session 4. Collections and Information Q&A
  20. 20. Session 3. How do organisations Manage Collections If Collections Management combines collections development, information, access and care, what do you think you need in order to do it?
  21. 21. Resourcing Collections Management <ul><li>People </li></ul><ul><li>Premises </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic Plan </li></ul><ul><li>Procedures/processes </li></ul><ul><li>Systems (physical) </li></ul><ul><li>Systems (digital) </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Money </li></ul><ul><li>It is possible to run a perfectly adequate Collections Management System using a piece of card and some coloured string...the primary requirements are consistency and communication. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Session 3. How do organisations Manage Collections What components do you think a Collections Management System needs to have?
  23. 23. Key elements of a Collections Management System <ul><li>Some way of associating an object with the knowledge about that object </li></ul><ul><li>The object is labelled, marked or put into a labelled container </li></ul><ul><li>That label is numbered using a unique & consistent system </li></ul><ul><li>That number corresponds to a piece of information such as a database record </li></ul><ul><li>Some way of searching, editing, adding to or generally interacting with the information about a particular object. </li></ul><ul><li>Additional systems to support particular functions such as loans or particular processes </li></ul>
  24. 24. Key processes in Managing a Collection <ul><li>Object Entry, Selection, Acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>Loans In and Out, Location, Movement & Control, Transport </li></ul><ul><li>Condition Checking </li></ul><ul><li>Conservation & Risk Management </li></ul><ul><li>Security, Insurance & Indemnity Management </li></ul><ul><li>Cataloguing </li></ul><ul><li>Audit </li></ul><ul><li>Rights Management </li></ul><ul><li>Deaccession and Disposal </li></ul><ul><li>All of which need to be documented in order to provide an audit trail. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Session 4. Collections and Information Given the role played by Collections Management, can you suggest different kinds of information which you need to record about Collections?
  26. 26. Information types <ul><li>Stock control (location) </li></ul><ul><li>Interpretive information (narratives) </li></ul><ul><li>Legal information (ownership of title, rights information) </li></ul><ul><li>Financial information (valuations) </li></ul><ul><li>Access information (conditions of use) </li></ul><ul><li>Visual information (photographs) </li></ul><ul><li>Management information (specific requirements) </li></ul><ul><li>Significance information </li></ul><ul><li>Information about previous treatment </li></ul><ul><li>Information about previous uses </li></ul><ul><li>The whole of Collections Management depends on effective Information Management. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Session 4. Collections and Information What do you think are the main challenges confronting an organisation in managing this information?
  28. 28. Challenges <ul><li>Time </li></ul><ul><li>Money </li></ul><ul><li>People </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>A reasonably-sized collection will contain 50,000 to 100,000 unique objects. Some will hold many millions. </li></ul><ul><li>There isn’t sufficient capacity to record full information about every collection. </li></ul><ul><li>You have to prioritise based on (a) what’s important and (b) what you know people will want access to. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Future horizons <ul><li>With the rise in User Generated Content and consumers, we have to find ways of capturing a wider range of voices using existing systems. </li></ul><ul><li>With the growth of the Internet, we are being required to publish management information online for users to search. </li></ul><ul><li>With reductions in funding, there is a strong impetus to rationalise collections, reduce staff and make processes more efficient. </li></ul><ul><li>Access to technologies for mass-digitisation is creating a whole new kind of digital collection, which also needs to be managed! </li></ul>
  30. 30. Q&A Now you know more about Collections Management, what do you think are the main obstacles facing the profession?
  31. 31. Q&A Any questions!
  32. 32. Key URLs www.collectionslink.org.uk www.collectionstrust.org.uk www.culturalpropertyadvice.gov.uk www.bsi.org.uk www.museumsassociation.org