Choosing the Appropriate Process

Most of the projects carried out are referred to informally as inventories, regardless of the quantity of information collected and recorded.

The nature and quantity of the information collected during a collection's documentation process must be based on:

  • the desired objectives and result of the documentation process being carried out;
  • the collection's nature and the type of information to be recorded;
  • the accessibility and reliability of the information already available.

Obviously, the choices made must be based on our information needs and on the resources that we have at our disposal to carry out the work.

It is important to remember that although there might be little information available on each object, a completed inventory will help ensure the best possible management for this collection. When undertaking a systematic documentation process of the collections, you must always aim for a complete inventory. However, if the objective is to gain a better understanding of what our collections consist of and to ensure more widespread dissemination of information, a cataloguing process is required.

Let us review the end result of each process:

A simple count enables you:

  • to be equipped with the tools needed to manage your collection well;
  • to create core content to which more detailed information can be added later;
  • to physically and precisely situate all the objects, to be able to locate them quickly and efficiently, and ensure to better monitor the objects' movements.

The physical inventory, on top of this, enables you:

  • to gain a better understanding of the collection's nature and size, and thus determine future storage or display space needs and necessary resources more accurately;
  • to intervene quickly in the event that the safety of collections is threatened (theft, fire, flooding, etc.);
  • to guarantee the quality and reliability of the information we have on the collections as a whole;
  • to use photographic reproductions of objects as a means of promoting their preservation and dissemination.

Cataloguing also generates the following:

  • a standardized process and/or a retrospective on collections documentation;
  • identification and description of the objects using recognized scientific terms;
  • a better understanding of the object within the collection and of the collection itself;
  • better dissemination of information on the collections to staff, researchers and members of the public;
  • reliable, authoritative information on the collections as a whole;
  • an incentive for research on the collections;
  • better preventative conservation of the objects, without the need to physically consult them;
  • information on the collections that is more systematically organized and an increased likelihood this information will survive and be shared.

Exercise 1: Recap Quiz - The How and Why of Documenting Collections

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