- 3.2.2 Accession register

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Is the situation of your museum exactly as described in section 2.2?

  • If so, well done!
  • If not, take the necessary steps to improve the situation.

In the latter case, there follow a number of scenarios that we have encountered in our missions in various museums. If any apply to your situation, they may help you improve the situation in your museum.

 

1- We have a “register” like the one described above, except that it is not bound or in hard covers (it consists of loose sheets / it is in notebook form). However, the columns are more or less the same and all the object are listed in it, in chronological order of accession number.

  • 1a) Contact a printer or a bookbinder to find out whether it is possible to bind and put covers on this document, so that you can then use it as a register.
  • 1b) If it is not possible to get the document properly bound and covered, you can,
    • in the case of loose pages, hold these together with a binder or put them in a flapped folder (if possible made of non-acidic cardboard). Close this list, adding under the last entry, “List closed on [date] due to non-conforming format. Further entries will be made in Register no. 2”, signed by the curator/director. Then obtain a register that conforms to standard, title it “Register no. 2”, and continue recording your acquisitions in this new register. Make sure you carefully keep the old list.
    • in the case of a notebook, close it, adding under the last entry, “List closed on [date] due to non-conforming format. Further entries will be made in Register no. 2”, signed by the curator/director. Then obtain a register that conforms to standard, title it “Register no. 2”, and continue recording your acquisitions in this new register. Carefully keep the old notebook.

 

2- We have several complete and incomplete registers.

Here you must use your common sense. We cannot cover or list all possible cases (different registers with different accession numbers, different registers with different accession number formats, different registers with the same objects recorded, etc.).

You should bear in mind that the important thing is that each object in the collection be recorded in a single document which has the characteristics indicated in the resources in section 2.2.

You can, however, use the various registers as resources, since they may contain information concerning the objects (provided that this is not contradictory).
Use the complete register by preference if it conforms to the norms. If the accession number format also conforms to the norms, you will not need to remove the numbers from all the objects.

 

3- We have a register, as described in 2-2, but not all the objects in the collections are listed in it. The last entry was made several months/years ago.

Bring your register up to date. That is to say, record in it all objects that have not so far been listed there, after first giving them an accession number (if this has not been done already) and affixing the number to each object.

 

4- We have a list of objects, without accession numbers

Obtain a register that conforms to the norms, give each object an accession number, affix the number to the object, and list each object in the collection in the new register, while making use, if possible, of the information contained in the list.

Keep the list as an archive document.

 

5- We had an accession register, but it has disappeared.

The “disappearance” of an accession register is a serious matter, since the accession register is an administrative document that records everything making up your collection. Thus if it falls into the wrong hands, it can used to plan or conceal a theft.

  • Carry out a thorough search of the museum (stores, offices, exhibition rooms, restoration laboratories, teaching workshops, etc.) to make sure that the accession register is not there.
  • Notify your supervisory authority of the disappearance, if this has not been done already.
  • Carry out an internal inquiry to find out, if possible, the date and circumstances of the disappearance of the accession register, in order possibly to determine who may be responsible and to take the necessary measures (possibly through your supervisory authority, if this is the procedure), such as notifying the police, etc.
  • Strengthen security in the museum: change the locks, change or strengthen the access procedures to the collections, make the security staff and museum team aware of the situation, regularly check the stores and exhibition rooms.
  • Make a new accession register, taking care to indicate on the opening page that it is a reconstructed register following the theft of the previous register:
    • 5a) If you possess a photocopy of the lost accession register, use it to re-create a new register conforming to the norms. It will suffice to recopy the photocopy or make a fax, which you will then have bound. If the photocopy is not up to date, record any objects not listed there in the new accession register.
    • 5b) If you do not possess a photocopy of the register, list all the objects in a new register in ascending order of accession number.
  • And if, after reconstituting the register, you find the old register at some later point, we advise you to return to the old one if it conforms to the norms, adding any entries to it that have been made in the meantime. Keep the other register in the archives.

 

6- We do not have an accession register but we have field cards for almost all of the objects.
Obtain a register that conforms to the norms, and record in it all the objects in the collection, after having allocated and affixed an accession number to each object, making use of the information contained in the field cards.

Classify your field cards in ascending order of accession number and archive them.

 

7- We record in the register all objects that arrive at the museum, even temporarily. Is this a good procedure?

In fact some museums do register all objects arriving at the museum, even if their acquisition by the museum has not yet been decided. This practice can, in the long term, lead to confusion: if there are objects that are “missing”, one does not know whether they are missing because it has been forgotten to specify that they have been returned to their owner or whether they have disappeared (theft, loss, etc.). In addition, this practice does not give a clear idea of what is in the collection.

Other museums have an entry register, in which are recorded all objects arriving at the museum (for reasons of study, or acquisition, or for consideration prior to possible acquisition). If an object is accepted for the collection, it is then registered in the accession register; if not, it is returned to its owner, with the return date recorded in the entry register. This procedure avoids overloading the accession register, and ensures that only objects belonging to the museum are listed there.

We recommend the second option.

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