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Museum inventories: Reducing the risk of dissociation

"And this belongs to the collection?" oops... 😱

The effects of dissociation include the loss of objects, collections, or data that give them value through context and meaning. Museums play a key role in the preservation and display of cultural, historical, and scientific artifacts.

They are true guardians of a society's cultural heritage, providing a safe environment for the appreciation and study of these treasures. However, one aspect that is often overlooked is the risk of disassociation, which involves the loss, sale, or removal of items from a collection. In this article, we'll explore the importance of dealing with this risk and discuss steps museums can take to protect and preserve their collections.

What is the risk of dissociation?

Disassociation risk refers to the possibility that items in a museum's collection will be lost or removed from their original context. This can occur from sale, theft, neglect, or even improper lending. When a piece is withdrawn from a collection, its historical and cultural value is compromised, as well as representing an irreparable loss to society as a whole.

What factors contribute to dissociation in museum collections? ❓ Small object size (difficult to label) ❓ Fragile objects (difficult to label) ❓ Unresolved copyright or property issues ❓ Object valued for uses not common to most of the collection ❓ Object used for destructive sampling or destructive search ❓ Large quantity and diversity of objects ❓ Collection data provided by various sources ❓ Tradition of illegal acquisition of objects ❓ Digital media susceptible to obsolescence To minimize the risk of decoupling, museums must implement effective measures to ensure proper cataloging and documentation of all items in the collection. This involves creating detailed records, including information about the origin, provenance, and value of the parts. The importance of a database: An efficient database is an indispensable tool for any museum. It allows to register and organize in a structured way all the information about the pieces of the collection. Through this database, it is possible to follow the history of each article, including its origin, provenance, date of acquisition and any other relevant information. This not only facilitates research and healing, but also plays a crucial role in preventing the risk of dissociation. Inventory improvements: In addition to a database, inventories must be complete and accurate. A detailed inventory allows the museum to know exactly what pieces it has in its possession and where they are located. It serves as an essential control tool to monitor any changes or movements within the collection. Maintaining an updated inventory is essential to identify discrepancies or possible shortages, which could be an indication of an imminent risk of dissociation.

Tracking and recovery of objects: When a museum has a complete database and accurate inventories, it can track and recover items in the event of loss, theft, or any other mismatch. By quickly identifying a missing item, the museum can act promptly, alerting authorities and taking whatever steps are necessary to recover the missing item. The detailed information available in the database also facilitates communication with other museums, institutions and collectors to prevent the illegal circulation of pieces. Transparency and accountability: A robust database and well-designed inventories demonstrate the museum's commitment to transparency and accountability in the management of its collections. These tools provide a clear and reliable audit trail, allowing the museum to verify the provenance of each item and how it was acquired. This is essential to avoid any questions or doubts about the legitimacy of the exhibits and to ensure that the museum complies with applicable laws and regulations. Having a complete database and detailed inventories is essential for the protection and preservation of a museum's collections. In addition to facilitating research and healing, these tools play a crucial role in reducing risk. In our course ''Collection Management: Inventory, Registration and Cataloging" you will learn to prevent these risks and learn tools for an effective registration of your collections! Check out our course welcome video below and everything you'll learn in it!

And check the course program here! Sign up and start studying now!

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