The purpose of preparing a collection summary is to create a basic record of the significance of the museum’s collections. It is a useful way of defining the museum’s collection strengths and weaknesses in relation to its historical context and acts as a prompt to articulate the overall significance of the museum collection and/or groups of items.
Using the Collection Summary Form
The Collection Summary form is in two parts. Part 1 is used to record collection groupings and to assign ratings about their significance in the museum’s context. Part 2 is for recording brief comments on particular strengths and gaps within the collection.
Use as many copies of Part 1 of the form as are required to separate out and cover the museum’s entire collection adequately. How much information is recorded on the form will depend on the overall size and make-up of the museum’s collection.
What collection groupings has the museum acquired?
Try to divide the collection up theoretically into general groups according to the historical associations (provenance) of the items. For example, the collection may include a haberdashery collection from a local shop, and this should be recorded as a separate grouping to other haberdashery items, which do not have the same provenance.
Think about the groups broadly – it is not necessary to list the individual items that make up a group. Groups should be as small or large as is necessary to accommodate all items with the same historical associations. It may be appropriate to have some groups with only one or two items.
Consider the make-up of the museum’s collection as a whole, including objects and archival items. Try to ensure that all items in the museum’s collection are covered in the groupings. Referring to the museum’s register or catalogue records may assist with this.
How relevant is each group of items to the stated purpose of the museum? (Record at ‘Rating’ on Part 1 of the form)
Assign a ‘relevance rating’ to each group of items. Use a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, where the lower end of the scale signifies least relevant and the upper end of the scale most relevant.
Relevance needs to be considered in the historical context of the museum’s locality or speciality. This context will have been defined in the museum’s mission statement and in the acquisition section of the collection policy.
The ratings can then be used to identify the ‘top 10’ most significant groups of items.
What are the strengths of the collection?
Use the information recorded in Part 1 to write a short statement or dot points summarising the strengths of the collection and how these collection strengths support the purpose or mission of the museum.
Are there any gaps in the collection?
From the summary prepared, identify any collecting ‘gaps’ – areas of the museum’s historical interest that are unrepresented on under-represented in the collection.
It can be useful to consider and record how these gaps may be addressed.