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Understanding Museum Archival Guidelines: Definitions And Scope

November 26, 2018

electronic document management


Museums are known for collecting large amounts of information. From historical documents to ancient artifacts, they require equally large storage spaces to handle and protect it all (not to mention prevent irreplaceable items from going missing). With humanity constantly pushing toward a technological future, one of the best ways to manage such vast amounts of information -- especially where the delicacy of history is involved -- is through the use of electronic document management systems.

Museum Management

It is estimated that approximately 19.8% of business time is wasted by employees searching for information necessary to the successful performance of their jobs. In museums, this occurs when museum employees cannot wade through the overwhelming amounts of documentation and struggle to find what they're looking for; think back to the days where microfiche readers were all you had to examine old documents, scanning endlessly in the hopes you'll discover what you're looking for. While many museums still rely on physical paper records (at least in some way), the surge for electronic document management saves museum employees time and eliminates the need for so much external storage space. The Museum Archives Guidelines details the following three types of records as essential to its archives:


  • Organizational Records: In particular, those related to administration. This includes correspondences, memoranda, financial records, departmental files, documentary photographs and negatives, film, and audio/videotapes.


  • Collection Records: This encompasses anything used in exhibitions, such as object or specimen files, and records of these exhibitions and installations.


  • Acquired Materials: The papers of individuals and organizations which promote the museum's mission through their relation to subject areas of particular interest to the museum (such as science, anthropology, natural history, etc.). They add value to the museum's collections and exhibitions programs.


Benefits Abound

The implementation of an electronic documentation management system allows access to all of the above records and documents with ease, inevitably saving the museum precious money and time. Though it may take quite a bit of effort to transfer the information over, the payoff permits museum employees to locate exactly what they need to, exactly when they need to: that previous time wasted returns to the museum in the form of attentive, interested, and engaged employees.