Getting Your House in Order 3: Documentation Histories

Event Date:16 September 2021 2:00 pm — 16 September 2021 3:30pm

The ongoing pandemic has put many museums and collections at risk, with some looking at facing insolvency, mergers with other sites and the movement of collections.

Good collections documentation is the key to managing these processes smoothly, ensuring that any museum collection is accountable and manageable in a high pressure scenario. We were inspired by our colleagues at North West Museum Development and their ‘Getting Your House in Order’ programme, and we have commissioned the Collections Trust to offer the same support and training to museums in the south east.

The Collections Trust team will provide the framework of Spectrum 5.0 and its procedures to bring a focus on the planning and work involved to get your collections documentation in place. We will also be bringing in Professor Janet Ulph, Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Leicester, who will bring a different perspective to the legal and ethical issues associated with dealing with collections.

There will be six sessions delivered online, which are open to staff, boards and volunteers from museums in the south east which are Accredited or formally working towards Accreditation.

The ‘Getting Your House in Order’ sessions are not just for museums facing huge change, but they act as a great refresher for museums wanting to improve their documentation standards, and will serve as a reminder of why this work is necessary.

Within the booking process you can indicate if your museum is or could be facing one of these scenarios, and you will be prioritised for a place.


In this third session of the series we will focus on the benefits of recording the history of your documentation systems. For example, have you captured key information about historic cataloguing systems, old numbering systems and policies? These are crucial to good collections documentation.

We will explore this topic using elements from the collections biography toolkit developed by Museum Development Yorkshire as a framework, as well as Collections Trust guidance about developing procedural manuals:

“A collection biography is useful as a simple aid to increase understanding of a collection and to give access to all who use it or are involved in its management. It can also be used to inform key stakeholders whose understanding of the collection and the issues which relate to it might be minimal. At its most basic it can be used to create a simple statement which provides an overview of the collections and how they came about …” MDY collection biography toolkit.

By the end of the session, delegates will: 

  • Understand the benefits of capturing the history of your museum’s documentation systems.
  • Understand the information that might need to be recorded and begin to identify sources of information within your organisation in order to develop this.
  • Begin to think about how your organisation might approach gathering and recording this history.

Before the session: 

Think about how you do things in your museum, referring to any written information about your museum’s current and previous documentation systems. You might also find it useful to have this with you to refer to during the session.

Please submit any questions you wish to address during the session in advance to john.moore@southeastmuseums.org by 10.9.21.

Book your place here

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