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Documentation and Cataloging

Museum documentation involves the gathering and use of information about objects in a museum collection. Cataloging is the process of recording detailed information about individual items or groups of related items. 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.

Cataloging Guidelines

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has cataloging guidelines for describing objects and their condition, measuring and weighing objects, and cataloging pairs and parts of a set.

Documenting Museum Collections

The National Park Service’s Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 13-page chapter that discusses protection of collections records. It lists common threats and preventive actions. It also details the requirements for the cabinets and rooms where paper records and computer media are stored (PDF pages 9-12).

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 including inventory.

Lot Cataloging

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a section discusses lot cataloging, which is frequently used with archeology and natural history collections. It includes sample completed catalog records.

Recommended Resources for Assessing and Selecting Collections Management Software (CMS)

History Associates, an exhibit development company, shares a list of resources to help museums choose the best collections management software systems.

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