What is Collections Management?

Collections management doesn't sounds like a nebulous concept, but ask a group of museum professionals for a definition and you soon realise it isn't as obvious as it seems.

Collections Management includes
·         the clear scope of the collection / the collecting goals
·         approved methods of acquisition
·         responsible recordkeeping, accounting
·         insurance
·         care of physical object
·         access
·         provisions governing incoming and outgoing loans
·         deaccessioning and disposal considerations

Building an Information Infrastructure

Many museums and cultural institutions have moved into the "digital age" in the name of progress but in many cases it was in name only.  Our digital records are still largely guided by the old analogue paradigms but presented in a jazzy digital platform. The "old way" may have made sense on paper, but the transition to digital makes less sense.  The movement towards a digital age in museum was a gradual evolution. What we need now is a revolution.  

There is an echo of the end of CHIN's central collections management software as museums migrate from their interim in-house system to the next generation of collections management software. A number of institutions in the Greater Toronto Area have recently undergone a significant platform migration. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the McMichael Canadian Collection have switched over to The Museum System. The Ministry of Culture's archaeological services section has also adopted the same system but they did not go through an intermediary system. Other institutions are slowly migrating from platforms such as Microsoft Access and FoxPro.

A centralised approach is required to truly make the steps we have already taken. Most large museums centralise this function in their Registration department. The ROM is in a position to do this because there is staff who possess the museum and IM skills to carry this forward. 

I firmly believe that the museum should work within the larger context as an "information provider" and look to the creating a system that will support the concept of "linked data" and the rise of the "semantic web".  These concepts are gaining a foothold in the thinking of how information is collected, stored, shared and accessed.  If we design a system with these inevitable goals in mind, it will put us in a better stead.

Departmental Reorganisation

After years under consideration, we have finally re-organized he Registration Department. It took the loss of 1/3 the staff, but we are there.  I will be the Registrar responsible for Museum Collections which includes all acquisitions as well as collections records. It is a large bailiwick to cover but in terms of bringing more procedural consistency as well as having a singular vision of the practice with which we manage our records will be a significant benefit, particularly when our staff has been so dramatically cut. The other 2 registrars will be responsible for all loans. My manager will continue in her admnistrative capacity as well as special attention of special exhibitions.
 
I am looking forward to the next phase for the ROM's Refistration Department. I hope that there are efficiencies gained by consolidating functions as well as improved consistency with our procedures and documentation.
 
 

After years under consideration, we have finally re-organized the Registration Department. It took the loss of 1/3 the staff, but we are there.  I will be the Registrar responsible for Museum Collections which includes all acquisitions as well as collections records. It is a large bailiwick to cover but in terms of bringing more procedural consistency as well as having a singular vision of the practice with which we manage our records will be a significant benefit, particularly when our staff has been so dramatically cut. The other 2 registrars will be responsible for all loans. My manager will continue in her admnistrative capacity as well as special attention of special exhibitions. 

I am looking forward to the next phase for the ROM's Refistration Department. I hope that there are efficiencies gained by consolidating functions as well as improved consistency with our procedures and documentation.

Teaching vs Experience

An upcoming conference at the University of Toronto's Museum Studies programme: Taking Stock: Museum Studies and Museum Practices in Canada makes me think about the nature of teaching versus actually working in the museum field. Does a museum professional who becomes a full-time instructor lose their relevance as a museum professional?  Can a professional, academic museologist be credible as an instructor in a professional program?

The conference description says as follows:

Over the past 40 years, the discipline of Museum Studies has grown beyond its foundational premise as the study of museum organization and management to become a field informed by interdisciplinarian approaches, pedagogies and techniques. Some have argued that Museum Studies has not only come of age, as an academic discipline it has moved into the mainstream. Yet for many, the very formulation of this discipline continues to be a subject of intense reflection and debate, while its relationship with the community of professional practitioners it intends to serve is complex.