Reviewing collections

Applying a clear and systematic approach to rationalisation assists museums in clarifying decision making; many museums follow a process of collections review to help structure this process.

Collections UK have released a guide that defines collections rationalisation as “a procedure whereby a museum improves its understanding of a collection so that the collection can be used more effectively for the benefit of the users. The need to rationalise a collection is driven by many different factors, and may include uncontrolled collection in the past, increasing pressures on the storage space or the need to meet organisational priorities”.

The aim of this guide is to support museums in considering and selecting appropriate methodologies to guide the rationalisation of their collections. It identifies the main issues for museums to consider and provides information about tools and resources available to support the rationalisation procedure.

Benefits of collections rationalisation include:

  • Ensuring that collections are relevant to the museum’s vision and strategic objectives which may have evolved over time with historic collections now not fit for the current purpose of the museum
  • Developing a clearer understanding of the collections the museum holds
  • Determining the significance of objects in a collection
  • Enabling effective collections development, including contemporary collecting
  • Maximising resources – storage space, staffing and running costs, to care effectively for collections
  • Developing priorities for collections care
  • Improving storage and management of reserve collections
  • Focusing collections, so that they are of high quality and relevant to users and stakeholders
  • Providing increased access to collections
  • Using collections within the museum and with partners in different ways
  • Enhancing knowledge and information about collections and improving documentation
  • Managing the disposal of objects both ethically and in response to organisational strategy

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