How improving documentation, as part of the remit of collections management, can increase intellectual access to museum collections for the purpose of academic research
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As part of the remit of collections management the responsibility for documenting and recording objects in museum collections is fundamental. A shifting focus on museum priorities in recent years, however, has led to the acknowledged neglect of collections and specifically collections-based research. Sector and institution led policies are now being put in place to reverse this situation, but accountable and relevant use of collections as a resource for research can only be achieved if basic documentation exists to support access. This paper will demonstrate how intellectual access to museum collections, for the purpose of academic research, can be increased through improved documentation. Museums must prioritise fundamental principles of documentation in order to establish collections as relevant and reliable resources for research. Only when Museums are accountable for both the physical and intellectual integrity of objects in their collections can they confidently allow access to the collection and related archives. By using the example of an active project, the primary goal of which is to highlight the research potential of public collections in the UK, together with the working examples of the National Galleries of Scotland and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, standards of policy and practice will be reviewed. To give context to the wider discussions, a case study in two parts will look first at the history and development of Glasgow Museums, a local authority service, before evaluating the practical experience of carrying out an enhanced documentation project on a select area of Glasgow's fine art collection. Current practice will be evaluated, followed by appropriate criticism and recommendations. Comparisons will be drawn between the three institutional examples used, considering their individual successes and failures.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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