Museum Collecting Policy
The Collection of museum objects is an ancient or age-long activity dated back to 383 BC. Collections can be made for different motives, while individual collects for either economic, social, educational or religion reasons, museum collects purposely and mainly to serve the public.
As we have different means of collection such as: purchase, loans, exchange, transfer, restitution, donation, seizure, bequest or by archaeological excavations, as well, there are variety of objects as depicted by the provenance. Such as: wood, fibre, bronze, silver, stone, mud, terracottas etc.
It is pertinent to note that no museum in the world can collect all the available museum objects teach museum collects the number of objects that will suit its thematic objectives. In view of the above, in the selection of the objects to collect, the International Council of Museums, (ICOM), formulated a policy called, “Museum Collecting Policy”, a guide in collecting the required and needed objects which the museum can use to effectively carry out its programmes and services to the public and future generation.
It is a guide to the museum, collecting staff, and helps to make collections to be done in a professional and ethical way, therefore it is very essential for every museum.
For this policy to be effectively functional, therefore basic factors are to be put into consideration such as: scope of museum the which is the determinant factor of the type of objects to be acquired, as the intention of the museum to dispose its duty, that is, service to the public, will determine the type and nature of the objects it requires to implement its services to the society.
This also determine geographical location the object one to be acquired and also the usage. The collecting guideline should state how and when each method of acquisition could be used and the conditions for accepting donations, loans and exchanges. It should include the conditions for archaeological excavations and the disposal countries at the institutional or governmental levels. Terms to adopt in exchange, loans and gifts or donations should be spelt out in the collecting policy, which the parties involved should understand and oblige to before finalizing the deal done.
Ethical considerations which involves availability of professional and ethical materials before embarking on acquisition of museum objects i.e. documentation personnel preservation and The rules should be able to adapt to any situation that may arise. This flexibility is necessary to accommodate and respond positively to variety of situations such as new needs, laws, standards, developments, ethics and values of the museum public and the society at large.
Museum as a global institution should not put an oversight on the National and International Legislation when formulating the professional ethics of museum. The United Nations Educational and Socio-Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is a body of United Nations Organization (UNO), in collaboration with International Council of Museums (ICOM) in their effort to promote unity among the member nations promulgated the professional legislations that positively marries professionalism with unity in diversity among the Member nations such as´Nations should not only collect and preserve their own heritage but should also know cultural objects from other countries.
In safeguarding other countries to acquire some of our own objects so that our own culture is also understood by others. Additionally, International bodies opined that “The information in the registers serves the legal purpose of proving ownership at any given time” (Agrawal 1973, Arinze 1990) By components, collecting policy. outlines the acquisition process in the museum.
It guides on whether or not an object should be included into the museum collection, who is involved in the decision making process or stability of the museum object in question, i.e. whether it should be acquired on temporary or permanent basis most especially loaned objects. The object should be legally acquired, the terms that suits both parties should be agreed upon on the objects obtained through; gifts, donations, transfers, exchanges or bequest methods.
Prior to the objects, acquisition, the necessary facilities should be ensured to be on ground to avoid unprofessionalism in the process of treating the objects, these facilities include; professional documentation officers with necessary material to document, convenient storage facilities, conservators with the needed material and other inevitable human and material facilities required to keep the objects in good order and useful for the museum objectives.
The policy also addresses the loan operation in the museum which typically included procedure for both incoming and outgoing loan. A strong loan policy will assure that the loan furthers the purpose of the museum, that the object will be cared for properly, and that the registration system can keep track of the object over the duration of the loan, who museum should lend to , from whom should museum loan object, (individual or institution), Do the loan object fit the mission of the museum and scope of collections , Insurance needs, length of the loan (short term or long term) and also the professional procedure needed should be itemized in the collecting policy like taking of photography.
Storage forms part of the collecting policy for it indicates the standard at which the collection, not in display for the exhibition, will be kept safely in as much as not all the objects in the collection will be used for exhibition at a time. The policy addresses whether the storage should be onsite or offsite, the environmental conditions in storage areas pertaining to things like light level, temperature and relative humidity; It also outlines the standard that deals with proper packing of objects in storage to ensure that proper shelves, rack or boxes as the case may be are available.
Additionally, it is professionally necessary to address the issue of documentation as it was stated that “without proper documentation it is almost as if the object does not exist” (Okpoko 1993) It is, therefore, imperative that the policy addresses standards relating to proper record management and documentation as related to objects in museum collection. Types of record, records created, the information contained, the personnel’s responsible for documenting and maintaining records, with any procedures and back-up system.
Periodic inventory taking which addresses how often the museum conducts comprehensive inventories which means checking the entire collection or “spot-check inventories” which, on the other hand means collection that will need to be located and checked for inventory. It also notes the steps to take and whom to notify if something is missing.
To achieve a successful museum operation in relation to museum object selection, it is very vital to adopt and observe the stated procedural analysis of collecting policy for it comprehensively, discuss the management of a museum far and wide, which include all the professional departments that constitute the museums.
*ADISA AKEEM G is a staff of National Commission for Museum and Monument in Osogbo.