2.2 Accession register



The accession register is an official administrative document. All objects in the collection should be listed in it in chronological order of accession number.

It should be bound in hardback format and its pages should be numbered.

Information relating to the object is arranged in columns. The number and names of these columns vary according to the museum.

Two photocopies should be made of the accession register. One, kept in a different place from the original, will be retained as is and regularly updated.  The other can be used as a working tool.

From the moment you begin describing the objects, attention must be paid to the terms you use, since this will be important later, when your museum moves on to computerizing the data (See Section 5, How to computerize the system § 1). This is why we have here included a resource on describing objects, so that you can begin thinking about the words you will be using. We recommend that you look at 5-1 where there are further resources that will help your work on the standardized description of your collections. This will enable you to save time when you move on to computerization.


Existing online resources (English):

Aide mémoire for Documentation in museums, n° 1, The accession register, EPA-ICCROM.
This presents the Accession register: format, headings, security.
Aide mémoire for Documentation in museums, n° 3, Recommendations for the description of objects, EPA-ICCROM.
Here you will find advice on describing objects and on standardization.
Aide mémoire for Documentation in museums, n° 4, Taking measurements, EPA-ICCROM.
Practical advice on measuring an object: equipment, units of measurement, procedure.
Registration step by step: when an object enters the museum, CIDOC.
Relatively clear and simple overall, although some parts are rather less clear than others. It explains, step by step, the procedure to adopt for registering an object when it arrives at the museum, from issuing a receipt through the creation of index files. The recommended procedure may be rather lengthy for what we know of the targeted museums.
Accession records, Collections Link.
The various steps and documents needed for correct registering of collections. Although referring to MDA practices, this is a good useful resource that may be adapted to the targeted museums if necessary.
Accessioning, in Museum Handbook, Part II, Museum Records, US National Park Service.
This useful resource is in the form of a series of questions and answers referring to situations that are typically encountered in museums. It is designed for the United States National Park Service museums, hence all the references and instructions concern these. However, there are good examples, advice and instructions that can be applied to many museums.
Documenting museum collections, in Museum Handbook, Part II, Museum Records, § C and F, US National Park Service
This takes the form of a series of questions and answers. Those concerning the workspace, the equipment and the protection of documents will be useful.

In French:

Inventorier des collections de musées, § LES SECRETS DU NUMÉRO D’INVENTAIRE, Ministère de la culture, France
This resource presents the characteristics of the Accession register. It makes reference to the DMF (Direction des Musées de France) standards, particularly in relation to the columns of the Accession register. The DMF standard requires a “14-column register”. Although rather old (1995), this is a useful resource and a degree of common sense will allow readers to distance themselves in regard to the DMF standard.

In Spanish:

Lic. Armando Gagliardi, Ant. Patricia Morales.(Coord). Normativas Técnicas para Museos. Dirección de Museos de Venezuela. Venezuela. (1993-94).


If these resources become unavailable, you will be able to find some of them on the EPA website. They were captured in March 2009 and checked in January 2011. You can find the Spanish resources on the ILAM website. They were captured in November 2009 and checked in January 2011.

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