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Definition

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"Cultural resource management involves research, to identify, evaluate, document, register, and establish other basic information about cultural resources; planning, to ensure that this information is well integrated into management processes for making decisions and setting priorities; and stewardship, under which planning decisions are carried out and resources are preserved, protected, and interpreted to the public."

Director's Order #28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, National Park Service

"The National Historic Preservation Act recognizes five property types: districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects. As called for in the act, these categories are used in the National Register of Historic Places, the preeminent reference for properties worthy of preservation in the United States. To focus attention on management requirements within these property types, the NPS Management Policies categorizes cultural resources as archeological resources, cultural landscapes, structures, museum objects, and ethnographic resources.

"Resource categories are useful because they help organize cultural resources into a manageable number of groups based on common attributes. On the other hand, categorization may obscure the interdisciplinary nature of many cultural resources. An early farmhouse, for example, may be filled with 19th-century furniture, form the centerpiece of a vernacular landscape, and occupy the site of a prehistoric burial mound. In addition to this type of overlap, cultural resources might also embrace more than one category or classification system. A stone ax can be both an archeological resource and a museum object, just as a fence may be viewed as a discrete structure, the extension of a building, and part of a landscape. Taken a step further, historic districts can be formed by various combinations of cultural landscapes, structures, and ethnographic and archeological resources."

Chapter 1: Fundamental Concepts of Cultural Resource Management, B. Types of Cultural Resources, 1. Notes on Resource Categorization, NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, National Park Service

The dual nature of cultural resources, an inseparable union of social and physical qualities, leads directly to the three central issues of their management: first, to discover the significance or meaning of each resource; second, to slow the rate at which their essential material qualities are lost; and third, to support the use and enjoyment of cultural resources while minimizing negative effects on them. These imperatives are at the heart of the cultural resource program. Their corresponding activities are emphasized differently for each resource type and labeled differently from discipline to discipline. But we can discuss the sum of all these activities in terms of three broad functions: research, planning, and stewardship.

Chapter 1: Fundamental Concepts of Cultural Resource Management, D. Essentials of a Comprehensive Program, 1. Objectives of Cultural Resource Management, NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, National Park Service

Collections is the term used for all material holdings of the Society. Specific collection categories are defined as follows:

  1. Permanent Collection

    Those significant objects which directly relate to the purpose of the Museum. Objects accessioned into the permanent collection are cataloged, documented, preserved, and managed according to prescribed procedures meeting current professional museum standards.

  2. Interpretive Collection

    Those expendable objects which contribute to the educational programs of the Museum and which are available directly to the public for examination. Objects in the interpretive collection are readily available or are duplicate objects and are not accessioned into the permanent collection.

  3. Prop Collection

    Those expendable objects which do not relate directly to the purpose of the Museum but which contribute to and enhance the visual and educational impact of exhibits. Objects in the prop collection are not accessioned into the permanent collection.

Standards

NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, National Park Service

New Orleans Charter for Joint Preservation of Historic Structures and Artifacts, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and The Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI)

Resources

National Park Service

Director's Order #24: NPS Museum Collections Management, National Park Service, August 21, 2000.
The objectives of this Director’s Order, in conjunction with the accompanying Level 3 Museum Handbook, are to:

  • Ensure that NPS managers and staff have information on the standards and actions for successfully and ethically complying with NPS Management Policies on museum collections.
  • Provide a means of measuring and evaluating progress in preserving, protecting, documenting, accessing, and using museum collections.

Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections, National Park Service
This document provides guidance on, and outlines procedures for, museum record keeping, including accessioning, cataloging, loans, deaccessioning, photography, and reporting annual collection management data.

  • Ch. 8: Conservation Treatment (PDF file)
  • Ch. 13: Museum Housekeeping (PDF file)
  • Appendix C: Professional Organizations and Societies (31K) (PDF file)
  • Appendix F: NPS Museum Collections Management Checklists (183K) (PDF file)

Caring for Cultural Material, reCollections, Heritage Collections Council, Caring for Collections Across Australia, Commonwealth of Australia on behalf of the Heritage Collections Council (2000).

Re:source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, London, England.

Benchmarks in Collection Care, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, 2002, Available as PDF file at Publications.

A handbook that sets out clear and realistic benchmarks for museum, archive and library collections. Benchmarks is a self-assessment checklist for organisations in the sector to: identify how well they are caring for their collections, give an indication of where and what improvements might be needed, and provide a practical framework for measuring future progress. Benchmarks is viewed as helpful for people with a high level of commitment, a strategic view of stewardship and, usually, specialised staff to apply the self assessment tool and carry forward the necessary actions. It is perceived to be less useful, useable and appropriate for smaller museums.

Preserving the Past for the Future: Towards a national framework for collections management, Re:source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, December 2002

This paper outlines the context and issues associated with the stewardship of cultural heritage assets in the museum, archive and library sector. The term 'stewardship' is used throughout to describe the entire range of demands and responsibilities associated with the management of cultural heritage collections, whether books, manuscripts, objects or digital material. Effective stewardship is vital to explore fully the potential of our collections to enrich and improve people’s lives.

Resources

Site Management, Vol. 16.3, Fall 200, Conservation: The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter, Getty Conservation Institute.

Rebecca A. Buck and Jean Allman Gilmore, eds. The New Museum Registration Methods. Washington, DC, American Association of Museums, 1998.

"The "bible of museum registrars," updated for the 21st century, with more than 50 all-new chapters covering the complete registration procedure, proper care and storage of objects, collections management, documentation, computerization of records, shipping and handling, insurance, security, ethics and legal issues, and much more. An indispensable reference book for museum professionals working in any kind and size of institution. Prepared by the Registrars Committee, a Standing Professional Committee of AAM." [Source: American Association of Museums]

James R. Blackaby et al. The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging: A Revised and Expanded Version of Robert G. Chenhall’s System for Classifying Man-Made Objects. Altamira Press, 1995.

"Chenhall's System for Classifying Man-Made Objects created the first common cataloging language for museums and other historical collections. Now The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging develops Chenhall's ideas to provide updated material so museums can use their collections to the fullest extent. The Revised Nomenclature provides a universally accepted classification system with terminology that allows curators, registrars, and catalogers to describe artifacts precisely. It also creates a standard for cataloging so that in-house record keeping is complete and accurate for use by all staff members and the exchange of cultural objects and information between museums is possible on both a national and international scale. This system deals with information, not with methods of recording that information, and enables even the smallest museum's terminology to be in synchronization with the largest metropolitan museum. No museum can afford to be without this book." [Source: Altamira Press.]

Reibel, Daniel B. Registration Methods for the Small Museum, 3rd Edition, AltaMira Press/American Association for State and Local History, PAPER 192PP. 1997 · ISBN 0-7619-8905-6 · $ 24.00

Registration Scheme for Museums and Galleries: Registration Standard - draft for consultation, Re:source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Available as PDF file or Word document at Publications.

Resource has now issued a draft Registration standard for consultation, on which it is now inviting feedback. Comments are welcome from all with an interest in museums registration; please note in your comments which paragraph you are referring to. Comments should be sent by email to: isobel.thompson@resource.gov.uk or by post to Isobel Thompson, Standards Policy Adviser, Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, 16 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA. The closing date for comments is June 13th 2003.

Descriptive Standards Institute, Society of American Archivists (SAA)

The Subject Cataloging Manual lays out rules for forming LCSH headings, and the AAT Application Protocol does the same for AAT terminology.

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