How to Accession an Object

By Wayne Kett

Last week a few of us from Collections Management joined forces with one of our social history Curators and a couple of volunteers to accession into our collection a variety of recent donations to the Museum of Norwich.

These included a first aid kit used by air raid wardens in Norwich during World War Two, four copies of a fanzine about the alternative music scene in Norwich during the early 1980s called the Blue Blanket and a couple of boxes of crackers made in Norwich by Tom Smith crackers.


One of the objects accessioned last week – NWHCM : 2016.386.2 (Childs boot made by Norvic Shoes)

Do watch this space because there will be a future blog about at least one of the objects mentioned above. But for this blog I thought I would explain the process by which we accession an object into our collection.

The first thing to say is that all of our museums have very strict collecting policies and as such will only accept objects that fall within the scope of their policy. Even when objects are appropriate for a particular collection we may still decline the object if we have duplicates in the collection, if it’s in poor condition or if we have any doubts about its provenance. These decisions are all expertly made by our curatorial staff.

Once an object has been accepted it is essential we diligently complete various documentation tasks that help to ensure we can properly manage the object for the long-term.

Step one is to assign each object with an accession number, this is a unique number that allows us to identify the object among the many hundreds of thousands in our collection.


Another recent donation – A UEA gig ticket from 1977, given the accession number – NWHCM : 2016.378

Step two is to mark the object with its accession number so wherever it goes in the future it can be matched to its documentation. We use various different methods to mark objects, in the case of the gig ticket above, I can simply mark it discreetly on the back in pencil.

Step three is to create an entire object record in our object database called Modes. This records information such as the object name, a brief description, measurements, an image, acquisition, association and production details and its location. Some of this information is gathered from the entry form we ask all donors to complete.


The top section of the Modes record for the gig ticket.

Finally, a basic record of the acquisition will be added to our accession register. This is a paper record of all acquisitions. In the case of our Norwich museums, an accession register has been maintained since Norwich Museums were founded in 1825. So in the event of a Zombie apocalypse and the subsequent loss of all IT systems we would retain a paper record of everything in our vast collection of objects.


A page from the 1845 accession register, they are thankfully no longer hand written.

Why not take the opportunity to explore our collections for yourself. Many of our collections are available to search on our collections online website

Or for more insights into Collections Management you can follow us on Twitter @NMSCollMan

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