Collections Management in Museum

Category: Management

Introduction

The museum collections are defined not only by their heterogeneity but also by the amount of services they offer. It is conventional for the museum to provide to its workers the instruments and resources associated with the collections. This is done through the provision of the collection history, internet page management and preservation of the collected data. In most museums, collections hold a high importance although they are not accorded sufficient storages. Although highly visible activities, such as publications and education, have conventionally attracted more sources, there are less visible activities regarding the storage management in both developed and developing nations. The Australian Museum is home to one of the largest collections of Australia archeological materials. The Museum storage has obtained a momentous amount of thoughtfulness due to increasing number of materials. In 2004, the Museum has built a new archaeological storage with the new collection criterion. Furthermore, the management of the storehouse in the museum is termed as a long term development process. This paper will mainly focus on how modern collection management enables the museum to solve past collection management problems.

Development of Storage Construction

In the last 100 years, numerous ethnographic and archaeological collections with diverse historical and cultural value have been acquired by the Australian Museum. In 1967, the Australian Museum became the legal repository for archaeological materials collected from the aboriginal sites in NSW. Only the material collected from the land controlled by NSW National Park and Wildlife Services were exempted. However, over the years, the number of archaeological collections resulting from professional excavation has been increasing gradually.

The former storeroom housed in the Australian Museum Annexe lacked essential facilities such as air conditioning systems. In addition, the store lacked good ventilation resulting to large indoor temperature difference. With regard to the architectural design of the storeroom, it was not well constructed. Hence, it was short of enough space for additional lack for increasing collections. As a result, the Museum management decided to shift the storeroom to its current place. The current storeroom has an indigenous archaeology department equipped with good security, temperature and moisture control systems. With regard to the current modernization strategies, the difference between the present and former storeroom are evident. The most distinguishing element of the present storeroom is the space. The current storeroom is equipped with movable racks unlike the fixed lacks in the previous storeroom. The use of movable lacks has enabled the museum to save a lot space. In addition, the modern racks are tight and lightproof hence the collections are safely stored.

Furthermore, the lack of the two storehouses is very different. In the previous storeroom, the materials are divided into three different storage sections. The first section contains collected during the recent excavations and surveys. The materials are stored in open shelves with boxes bearing the name and the year of the excavation site.  The other section consists of the artifact collected before 1967, which are deposited in safe cabinets. In the third section, it includes large stone objects such as grindstones that are stored in open shelves. Furthermore, the present storehouse is diversified since it contains upper and lower storage facilities. The upper section consists of open shelves while the lower consist of metal cabinets used for storing the collections. Therefore, the storeroom ensures that the storage requirement standards for the collections are maintained. In contrast, collections in the former storehouse were classified in accordance to their archaeological types. Although this method of classification is convenient for research purposes, it is often prone to confusion during management. In the current storehouse, the collections are arranged in a way that enhances follow up management and statistic collection by the Museum management.

In response to the recent review, the Australian Museum has introduced a new procedure for deposition of all archaeological material acquired in 1992. This is because Boxes containing artifacts are sealed with the tapes, which with time loses its stiffness. Nowadays, the boxes are no longer sealed with tapes. This has been a key point toward the arrangement and management of the collection materials in the storeroom.  In addition, it is a Museum requirement that all boxes containing the material be bagged. However, for the protection of the material, the material boxes are sealed with a rubber band, which is also often prone to break after a long time of preservation. All the bags in the Museum have been replaced with a zip lock bags, which have been the most practical bags for classifying the specimens.

Another significant change lies on the marking of the collections. Since most collections were excavated long time ago, most artifacts were directly numbered and marked with the name of the excavation site. Presently, the stone artifacts are numbered on the surface. However, 27 percent of the Paraloid in acetone is often daubed on the surface before the numbers are written. This reduces the damage to the cultural relic to the minimum. In the earlier years, the label of the collections was usually made up material such as scotch tape, board and paper plus glue. However, all these labels have fallen off after 40 years of preservation and left traces of glue on the artifacts. Nowadays, the Museum uses plastic papers and acid free pen to label the artifacts.

Introduction of the Museum Management Software

In the Australian Museum, each collection’s information is often filed in two alphabetical systems; the collector file and the site index. The site index provides quick references to the collection information such as site location, size, and storage location, the name of the collector, registration number and the year of collection.  The collector files contain an identification sheet that provides collector’s and site name, year, collection size, and storage location. In the last two decades, the number of collections had exceeded the available resources for management and collections of these materials. In addition, access to the collections as well as their respective documents was problematic. The information search and retrieval systems have been slow and cumbersome. However, since 1992, the archaeological collections and organization had undergone changes especially to the loan and deposition procedures. Even though, this has improved access to the collections, there exist some inconsistencies especially to the documentation department.

Since the inception of 20t century, it has become essential for the Museum to manage its information regarding its collections in a digital way. The Museum collection management software was developed by the Australian developer. Since then, the software has been applied widely by different Museums in Australia. The most outstanding feature of the software is that it adopts SPECTRUM II Standard, Dublin Core Metadata Standard 1.2. In addition, the software has other meta-standard specifications and sorting modules that are custom built by the Museum for documentation Association.  The content management of the archaeological collection solely relies on digital processing of the information of different types of collections. This includes input of collection’s literal data, processing of the material pictures obtained from digital cameras, and digital processing of the collection’s video. This fulfills the computerized and networked management of the Museum collections

The software also facilitates the management of the borrowing of the collections including completion of the procedures for borrowing and returning of the collections.  Furthermore, this facilitates learning through the provision of exhibit materials for all units to the school. Through the use of this software, the out-put and in-put of the collections in the storehouse is completed quickly and safely. Thus, safety and security of the materials is maximally guaranteed.  Furthermore, the use of software necessitates retrieval and management of the collections. This includes inquiry of the ledger and journal for all types of collections, inquiry of the documents for all collections, as well as the inquiry for printing of the statistical statements.

The implementation of the digital system in the museum has allowed the collections management in the closed resources to become digital. The retrieval systems have become digital, which is an essential milestone in collection management function of KE EMU. Through standardized operation, KE EMU has further standardized the management operations of collections through digitalization of the Museum collection materials. Furthermore, documentation of the collections material has been digitalized. However, it is worthy to note that scientific management of collections requires a database for collection files. This is because incomplete filing essentially leads to faulted management of the collections. In addition, it results to passiveness and confusion in the managerial work.

Nonetheless, the digital management of the cultural relic’s collection files has permitted the archives administration, scientific research and demonstrative educational work to give a full play. Furthermore, KE EMU has developed its own multimedia management, through which each picture is uploaded directly to the collection catalogue.  Through this, the efficiency of the scientific storage and inquiry is greatly enhanced. However, KE EMU allows only a single collection catalogue to each collection number although a box may contain material with more than one collection number. In order to avoid such a situation, it important for the first catalogue to be set as the master record, and the following registered number need a suffix in order to tell the differences. However, this method may lead to omission during follow up inquiry. This is because KE EMU has been unable to record the number of objects independently.

KE EMU has also effected great changes in the internal management of the collections. This is because the traditional manual record and description of the information of the collections has been replaced by computerized storage systems. Since the information is digitally processed, the workload of the staff is significantly reduced.  Furthermore, the working efficiency of the internal management and the utility of the collections are exceedingly improved. Since 75 percent of the material in the indigenous Archaeology storeroom is usually used for research, there is other storage called A3. A3 stores indigenous cultural materials that are used for exhibition and education. Previously, the reference files of the two storages were totally different even when the material become from the same place. This made it difficult for the museum to analyze the types of material collected. However, through the modernization of the collections managements, KE EMU has summarized all the collections information from different storeroom. In addition, it has relieved conflict between the use and preservation of the cultural relic collections.

Conclusion

It is evident that for the museum to be effective in collection, processing, storage, and provisional of services need to adopt the new technology that centralized all operations, and increases the efficiency. Through new technology, Museum is often capable of making collections accessible to the general public, scholars and other institution. Furthermore, new technology enhances efficiency in protection and preservation of collections.  Through the examples of KE EMU used in Australian Museum, it has been proved that it is imperative to computerize all the museum operations in order to enhance quick access to information and resource output minimization. Through this, it will be possible to access the museum services internationally.

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