I seek some advice. We had a donation of approximately 275 Victorian Dollhouse pieces back in 2008. Probably about 3/4 of it is old Victorian pieces and the rest is plastic and more modern pieces and there are no two pieces a like. In our collection management database (we use Past Perfect), the person who accessioned it put it all as one record. Would you recommend spiting up each piece into a catalog record? Or group them by theme (ex. kitchen supplies, furniture, etc.)? Would appreciate any help!
Hi Jakob - I formerly worked at a museum where we had many of these situations in the collection. Some might ask if you, too have other instances. Professionals have always told me that keeping the way you record things consistent is important for each institution. So I would suggest you see if there is another example of a "collection" of items that has been donated to your museum and how that has been handled.
I found this metadata document (link below) and have referenced it before. You could compare other plans as well and see what makes the most sense for your institution.
That being said I would give each piece a distinct identifying number/letter. If not it would be very difficult to determine if one was lost or misplaced without this. In the museum I formerly worked, the system was to give an identifying number (year.donor#.artifact#). If there were multiple parts to one object for instance a teapot (lid and pot) a letter would be assigned (year.donor#.artifact#.letter). If there was a collection of individual objects that came in together and were related to one another they were assigned a 4th number (year.donor#.artifact#.piece#). So in my case we would have assigned each of these the fourth number. It signified that they were in-fact related as part of a collection within a donation but could stand alone as well.
However they are entered into PP should match how the artifacts themselves are labeled.
I'm glad you asked this question. I'm curious to hear the responses of others.
Standard museum practice would be to accession to pieces as one gift and them number each piece uniquely with its own accessionsl nmber the accession number i.e. 2016,1,,2016,.2 etc. within the numbering system you use. Ideally it should be one gift of many parts.
The new pieces like the plastic ones could noted as not historic or what ever designation you prefer
Cataloging a collection of artifacts is much more of a philosophy than a set of rules. At my institution decisions are not always consistent. In order to describe the decision making I need to use examples. In example A one person has assembled a group of objects purposefully to use or show together. The objects together tell the story and I will want to (nearly) always display these together. In this case, I catalog the objects as one. In example B one person has assembled a group of objects but they did not showcase them together themselves or conceive of them as a set. Often this is the case with professional tools. Its a set, yes, but not a story. In this case I would accession individually. Now you seem to have example C on your hands: the collection was assembled over time to be used or shown together but they are of inconsistent quality and/or the museum has less or no interest in a few of the pieces. In this case The collector is the deciding factor for me. Do they have an interesting story that might be worth exploring about why they chose to assemble these objects? If not, accession them separately. A note in the record can help a future employee reassemble the collection if need be but my guess is that you will rarely show them together because the pieces only read as a set to the collector - who is not themselves interesting enough to warrant their own display. Perhaps that reads as harsh but I often come across similar situations and the question is: what is the purpose of accepting the donation? And what is the history we are trying to preserve?
Yowza.....that's quite a predicament. If all of the pieces came assembled and on display within the dollhouse or has a known association with the dollhouse, separate catalog numbers for each piece isn't necessary. An alternative would be to adjust the record so that the pieces are "a-zzz" (or equivalent) of the current number. Then you would painstakingly go through each piece and identify, photograph, etc. If the doll house arrived with the furniture in place you could start by room to categorize and group the pieces or if they arrived as a bunch of pieces in a box, then you could sort by like item, room, however your cataloging OCD works. :)
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