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Access to Collections

Providing access to collections to researchers and the general public is a key part of a museum’s public service. Access can include both physical access and intellectual access to documentation on specific objects, including via exhibitions, publications, education, and research. The following resources were compiled from organizations throughout the nonprofit and museum sector. AAM reviewed and approved each one based on the organization’s authority and expertise and the resource’s usefulness related to the topic. Clicking the links below will take you off the AAM website.

6 tips for increasing access to museum storage

The UK Collections Trust created a quick tip sheet on how to increase access to collections storage focusing on case studies from several museums in England.

Evaluating and Documenting Museum Collections Use

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) devotes Part III to collections use. A 60-page chapter states that access to collections can mean physical access or intellectual access to the available documentation on the objects. It discusses access in a broad sense, including exhibitions, publications, education, and research. It provides guidelines for evaluating proposed uses by considering legal, management, ethical, cultural, scientific, preservation, interpretation, and user qualification issues.

Museum Collections Online

The Council on Library and Information Resources (ClIR) has an article from Bernard Reilly of the Chicago Historical Society. The article discusses the benefits and challenges of putting museum collections online as a means of providing additional access for visitors.

Microfilm: In an Era of Digitization Why Does NARA Continue to Use Microfilm Records?

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a brief article explaining why it continues to microfilm records rather than using digital technology.

Public Access to Collections Policy

The Spurlock Museum of World Cultures provides it’s public access to collections policy online. The museum provides access via exhibitions and by appointment for study and research purposes.

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