Procedural standards and guidelines are available as general frameworks and guides to good practice for museums. The resources in this section have been selected because they deal with (or include sections on) procedures for collections documentation and management. Museums can use these as a basis to build their own, institution-specific procedures and practices for accessioning, numbering systems, inventories, image management, location control, loans processing, intellectual property management, etc.
CHIN has developed an online course which deals with collections management procedure and documentation practice.
Introduction to Documentation of Heritage Collections
Introduction to Documentation of Heritage Collections allows you to acquire a fundamental knowledge and to develop the required competency levels needed to successfully carry out a collections documentation project in your institution. This introductory course on the documentation of heritage collections will allow you to learn basic theoretical concepts on the documentation of heritage collections, identify the available tools and recommended ways of documenting collections efficiently and use appropriate criteria to make informed choices that are adapted to your specific needs. Available in French and English.
Go to "Introduction to Documentation of Heritage Collections"
Many of the provincial Museums Associations have developed standards or guidelines for museum practice, many of which include advice on collections management and documentation.
Alberta Museums Association Standard Practices Handbook for Museums, 3rd Edition
The Standard Practices Handbook for Museums outlines standards of museum practice and makes suggestions for implementation. It includes four parts: Museums and Society – how a museum interacts with its communities; Administration – museum governance and management; Collections – collections management, conservation and research; Programming – public programs, exhibits and publications. Available in English only.
Go to "Alberta Museums Association Standard Practices Handbook for Museums, 3rd Edition"
Association of Manitoba Museums Standards for Manitoba Museums
This Association of Manitoba Museums publication is a guide to good standards of practice for Manitoba museums. Available in English only.
Go to "Association of Manitoba Museums Standards for Manitoba Museums" (PDF version, 277 KB)
Collections Management Policy for the Nova Scotia Museum
Includes Nova Scotia Museum policy for many museum functions, including collection development, acquisition, documentation, preservation, use, deaccessioning and repatriation. Available in English only.
Go to "Collections Management Policy for the Nova Scotia Museum" (PDF version, 554 KB)
Museums Association of Saskatchewan Standards for Saskatchewan Museums – 2010
This publication covers all aspects of museum operations and has relevance for a wide variety of institutions. It includes operational goals and guidelines. Available in English only.
Go to "Museums Association of Saskatchewan Standards for Saskatchewan Museums - 2010"
Museums Association of Saskatchewan Collections Documentation Manual – 2014
This manual covers a range of topics split into three parts: Registration, Cataloguing and Use. Each of these three parts describes the processes museums should follow in documenting their collections, some of the issues that need to be considered, and the forms and files that are to be used for each process. (Description taken from the website.) Available in English only.
Go to "Museums Association of Saskatchewan Collections Documentation Manual – 2014"
Comment gérer vos collections? Le guide de gestion du Réseau Info-Muse – Deuxième édition
This guide developed by the Réseau Info-Muse of the Société des musées québécois (SMQ) includes a description of museum processes such as acquisition, loans in and out and deaccessioning, as well as the fields required to document these processes. Includes fields for documentation of photographic reproductions, digital images and rights. Available in French only. This document is currently out of print, but it may be available through a library or bookstore.
Go to "Comment gérer vos collections? Le guide de gestion du Réseau Info-Muse – Deuxième édition"
There are also guidelines and standards that have been developed within other countries that may be useful to Canadian museums.
Benchmarks in Collection Care for Museums, Archives and Libraries: A Self-assessment Checklist
Benchmarks in Collections Care is a self-assessment checklist that sets out clear and realistic benchmarks for collections care. Many museums use benchmarks as a performance management tool to review and measure their current standards of collections care and work towards improvement. (Description taken from the website.) Available in English only. For PDF: http://www.collectionstrust.org.uk/media/documents/c1/a227/f6/Benchmarks2.pdf
Go to "Benchmarks in Collection Care for Museums, Archives, and Libraries: A Self-assessment Checklist"
The New Museum Registration Methods. 5th Edition. 2010. Edited by Rebecca A. Buck and Jean Allman Gilmore
This reference book includes information on procedures for museum registration, object care and storage, collections management, documentation, computerization, insurance, security, ethics, legal issues, etc. Prepared by the Registrars Committee, a Standing Professional Committee of the American Association of Museums (AAM). Available in English only.
Go to "The New Museum Registration Methods. 5th Edition. 2010. Edited by Rebecca A. Buck and Jean Allman Gilmore"
Created by Collections Trust, Spectrum is a guide to "good practice for museum documentation, established in partnership with the museum community. It contains procedures for documenting objects and the processes they undergo, as well as identifying and describing the information which needs to be recorded to support the procedures." As such, it is both a metadata standard for museum collections documentation and a procedural standard. It includes information on the minimum UK standard for museum documentation. The primary Spectrum procedures, which refer to 9 of the 21 procedures, are considered essential for managing collections effectively and making them accessible. Spectrum is a well-respected standard internationally and is increasingly used as the basis for international interchange of museum data. An XML DTD has been produced for Spectrum which serves as a system-neutral interchange format for museum data that is based on Spectrum. CHIN collaborated with Collections Trust in 2019 to offer a French version on the Collections Trust website.
Registration step by step: when an object enters the museum
This CIDOC fact sheet provides information on the registration process. Available in English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch.
Go to "Registration step by step: when an object enters the museum" (PDF format, 24.2 KB)
Labelling and marking objects
This CIDOC fact sheet outlines the "methods used for labelling and marking of objects with their accession or inventory number." Available in English and French.
Go to "Labelling and marking objects" (PDF version, 26.9 KB)
Spectrum Digital Asset Management
Sets out a methodology by which digital asset management can be integrated alongside the existing curatorial and management functions of the organization to ensure that they are widely adopted and sustained as a core element of practice. Provides information and guidance on the development of a digital asset management strategy (DAM Strategy), associated DAM Policies, the implementation of a digital asset management system (DAMS) and the integration of digital asset management workflows (DAM Workflows) alongside the existing Spectrum collections management processes. (Description taken from the website.)
U.S. National Parks Service Museum Handbook (Parts I-III)
A reference guide from the U.S. National Park Service on how to manage, preserve, document, access and use museum collections. Includes sections on Museum Collections, Museum Records, and Museum Collections Use. Available in English only.
Go to "U.S. National Parks Service Museum Handbook (Parts I-III)"
CHIN Guide to Museum Standards (PDF, 544 KB)
Contact information for this web page
This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly. To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the Museology and conservation topic page on Canada.ca.
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