The invisibility of museum documentation

I’ve been thinking about museum documentation quite a lot recently. You might say this is unsurprising – after all, I’m paid to manage documentation at the Horniman Museum. But what’s vexed me particularly is the matter of documentation’s invisibility: the way it’s seldom mentioned publicly, despite underpinning everything a museum does.

For the uninitiated, museum documentation comprises two things:

  • Looking after the information about a museum’s objects, making sure that everyone who needs or wishes to know about them can find out as much as possible as easily as possible
  • Ensuring that the museum can account fully for its objects, and everything that has happened to them

So you can see why it’s so crucial to what museums do.

I kicked off a discussion about why documentation seems to be so invisible in the Collections Trust’s Collections Management group on LinkedIn (you need to be part of the group to see the discussion). I’ve also urged everyone who works in documentation to tweet about what they’re doing and why it’s important using the hashtag #MuseumDocumentation. And I wrote a short post about it for the Horniman’s website.

But that’s not all – I’m currently writing a much longer blog post for the Registrar Trek site, and I’ve been asked to write an article on documentation for Museums & Heritage Magazine. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out: they’ll contain much more on the subject!

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