If you are having a difficult time making a distinction between inventory and cataloguing, note that cataloguing generally involves in-depth research for the purpose of documenting each object. This information is usually collected by experts who are working in the relevant field.

In addition to the basic information collected during the taking of an inventory, the type of information added during the cataloguing process covers contextual information and our scientific understanding of the object, as well as its history, both before and after it has received heritage status.

Generally, this type of process is reserved for the objects that are considered major pieces of the collection and even for the objects that are used or intended for use in dissemination projects.

The advantage of cataloguing is that it provides much more detailed information on the collections, and thus fosters both efficient management and in-depth knowledge of the collections. This knowledge will help determine which direction the collection should be taking, and it will also facilitate its interpretation and promotion. The understanding of an exhaustive collection cataloguing process also requires a significant investment in both time and resources. This is why this process is often only adopted for a subgroup of a collection, i.e., the pieces that are used the most for dissemination activities, the major pieces that are consulted most frequently by researchers, or the ones most often requested as loans to other institutions.

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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

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