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Acquisitions and Accessioning

Acquisitions and accessioning are two processes in collections management that require museums to develop policies and procedures for acquiring objects through various means including gift, bequest, purchase, and exchange, and then assessing and formally accessioning objects into the museum’s permanent collections. We compiled this set of resources on acquisitions and accessioning from amongst our own offerings and those available throughout the nonprofit and museum sector.

Alliance Resources

Museum Registration, 6th Edition

Edited By John E. Simmons And Toni M. Kiser, the sixth edition of this seminal tome includes chapters on the history of the profession, the role of the registrar in the museum, managing very large collections, developing and implementing collection management policies, documentation of collections, accessioning, condition reports, deaccessioning, repositories, and provenance research. Available for sale through our publishing partner, Rowman and Littlefield.

Other Resources

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.


The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a chapter on accessioning. The 62-page chapter discusses acquisition policies, accessioning, special considerations for different types of collections, acquiring copyright, gifts, purchases, exchanges, transfers and field collections, and includes a few forms, including a receipt for property and a deed of gift form. It addresses how to accession objects found in the collection with no documentation (PDF pages 32-33), as well as how to resolve old loans if the park is located in a state without old loan legislation (PDF pages 41-44). It also discusses policies and procedures for incoming loans (PDF pages 33-41).

Acquisitions, Transfers and Transitions by Zoos & Aquariums

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) provides its Policy on Responsible Population Management: Acquisitions, Transfers and Transitions by Zoos & Aquariums. This document serves as the default policy for AZA member institutions. Institutions may develop their own policies in order to address specific local concerns, but the policies must incorporate and not conflict with the AZA acquisition and disposition standards.

A Guide to Deeds of Gift

The Society of American Archivists provides a comprehensive list of information to be included in a deed of gift.

Guidelines on Loans of Antiquities and Ancient Art

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has a report on the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art (PDF). It provides guidelines to help museums revise their acquisition policies to reflect increasingly complex legal and ethical issues, revised in 2013.

Hope, Distributed (Part 1) and (Part 2)

These posts from the Opus Cultura blog cover how museums might use blockchain for provenance verification.

Inventory and Other Special Instructions

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 73-page chapter that addresses several collection management issues. Sections IV and V (PDF pages 26-31) of this 73-page chapter discuss reproductions, exhibit aids, living history items, and consumptive use. Section VII (PDF pages 36-41) discusses buying insurance for borrowed objects. Section IX (PDF pages 49-57) has information about appraisals and assigning monetary values for insurance and other purposes.

Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website provides access to several relevant publications and forms (PDF). Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property provides more detailed guidance on determining fair market value and discusses qualified appraisals.

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