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5. Collection Policies


5.1 Objects and collections may be acquired as donations, bequests, purchases, transfer or commissions.


5.2 The museum will only acquire objects that can be properly stored, documented and managed.


5.3 The museum provides community access to the collection, through exhibitions, public programs, access to collection information, response to public enquiries and other means.


5.4 The museum only acquires objects that are relevant to its mission and purpose and collection themes.


5.5 The museum aims to build unique historical records about clothing and textiles, with emphasis on provenanced items from Maitland and the Hunter, including the textile industries of the region.  


5.6 The museum will identify priority themes as a focus for research, strategic collecting, exhibitions and documentation on an annual basis. These priorities will be pursued through projects or other activities identified in the museum’s strategic plan and/ or annual work program. 


5.7 Where possible the museum will record the owner’s memories of the object and seek associated photographs and ephemera.


5.8 The museum will give priority to more complete outfits with accessories, additional provenance information, or photos of the owner wearing the outfit.


5.9 The museum works in partnership with other museums, libraries, galleries, archives, heritage and community organisations in the district, where possible developing a collaborative approach to collecting, research and interpretation.


5.10 Foster research into clothing and textiles by developing co-operative projects with partners including history and heritage groups, tertiary students and academics.


5.11 Subject to being in good condition significant items from the Museum’s Collection may be worn in parades at the discretion of the Committee.


5.12 Over time the museum will refine and develop an Education Collection of  items for more active use in public programs, parades and education access.


5.13 No objects or collections will be acquired or accepted with conditions or restrictions on the way they might be used or displayed in the future.


5.14 Ensure the donor or vendor of a proposed acquisition has clear legal title to the item.


5.15 All collecting activity and collection management processes to be in accordance with the ICOM Code of Ethics[1] and within the framework of the NSW Heritage Office’s Movable Heritage Principles[2].


5.16 The Collection Policy is a public document that is readily available in the museum for inspection by donors, visitors and volunteers. Include a copy of the Collection Policy in volunteer training packages and resource kits or on the museum’s website.


6. Acquisition and Assessment Policies and Criteria


6.1 Keep accurate, up to date and detailed records.


6.2 Establish object files for the most significant items and new acquisitions.


6.3 Prepare a statement of significance for new acquisitions. This may be in point form or be an interim assessment pending further research.


6.4 Significance is the basis for considering new acquisitions, and relevance to the museum’s mission, purpose, its collection themes, collection policy clauses above, and its capacity to care for the item.


The significance assessment method and criteria guide collection assessment and management.[3] The primary assessment criteria are:

Historic significance

Artistic or aesthetic significance

Scientific or research significance

Social or spiritual significance


The comparative criteria are:


Rarity or representativeness

Condition, intactness, integrity, completeness[5]

Interpretive capacity


6.5 Assess potential new acquisitions in light of the scope and content of the museum’s collection. Does the proposed acquisition relate to key themes in the collection or strengthen the interpretation of a particular subject or group of items?


6.6 Avoid duplicating items already in the collection unless the proposed acquisition is more significant than the items already in the collection, for example, where the proposed new acquisition is provenanced or is in better condition.


6.7 Acquisition decisions will have regard for the sustainability of the collection, space and work load issues such as whether there is a backlog with registration and collection documentation?


6.8 Over time the museum will establish an acquisition and deaccessioning subcommittee to assess items for the collection and to review collection themes.  


7. Acquisition Procedures


7.1 A receipt/ donation agreement form will be issued when an object is received as a possible donation and the donor will assign title to the museum.


7.2 Where possible ask the donor to write down the history, associations, context and significance of the object they are donating. Alternatively the person receiving the item should make notes on the object’s history and associations. Keep this information with the donation form/receipt to allow a proper assessment of the object’s significance. If there is no information this may indicate the object is of limited significance and should not be acquired.


7.3 A subcommittee will assess the significance of the object and consider the proposed acquisition against the collection policies, themes and acquisition criteria. Consider if the museum can properly care for and manage the item. A short statement of significance will be prepared for all acquisitions, which may be revised at a later date after further research.


7.4 Register the object in the accession register binder, completing the record sheet, noting the date, description of the object, measurements and marks, object number and donor details. Where possible a thumbnail photo is taken and filed by accession number.   


7.5 The object will be numbered[6], photographed and catalogued and contextual information collated in an object file.


7.6 Where possible or relevant a letter of thanks will be written to donor.


7.7 Develop an index of donors with a list of their donations and the object numbers.


7.8 Items that are not approved for acquisition into the museum or education collection will be returned to the owner/ donor unless the receipt spells out an alternative arrangement for disposal.


7.9 Items may be transferred from the museum collection to the education collection. This should be noted on the accession sheet, for discussion about the process.     


8. Deaccessioning Policy and Procedures


8.1 Deaccessioning is the process of de-registering an object from the collection for clearly stated reasons and disposing of it in accordance with approved policies and procedures. Caution and transparency are essential in the deaccessioning process.[7]


8.2 To deaccession an object from the collection, assess the item against the museum’s mission, the collection policy and themes, and the assessment criteria.


8.3 The criteria for deaccessioning include:

Little or no significance – using the assessment process and significance criteria

This includes poor condition and lack of provenance

Also consider:


Inability to properly store and manage the object

Lack of relevance to the collection policy, collection themes or related items

Lack of relevance to the museum’s mission and purpose

Other more appropriate custodians or collecting organisation


8.4 Raising money for the museum through the sale of deaccessioned items is not a valid reason for deaccessioning.


8.5 In identifying priority items for deaccessioning, the museum will give priority to larger items that take up storage and display space, objects in poor condition, items that are hazardous or that create problems for management or visitors. 


8.6 In exceptional circumstances, items may be deaccessioned where the object is of significance to certain people and/ or places and where return will facilitate its care and appreciation.


8.7 In certain rare instances an object may be deaccessioned and transferred to another collecting organisation if it is able to provide better care for the item, and if the object’s significance will be more apparent to visitors. This may include cases where the recipient collecting organisation has related items

 in its collection.


8.8 Where there are reservations or disagreement about the significance and relevance of items proposed for deaccessioning, the museum may hold items for a period of 12 months before disposal. Items proposed for deaccessioning will be available for inspection, together with a statement detailing the reasons for deaccessioning. 


8.9 Items proposed for deaccessioning will be formally approved by the museum’s management committee.


8.10 A short statement will be prepared indicating why the object is being deaccessioned. This information is kept in a register of all deaccessioned objects with a note about the method of disposal.


Method of Disposal


8.11 There are four main methods of disposal:

Return to the donor

Transfer to another museum



Transfer to the education collection


8.12 Alternatively, deaccessioned items may be transferred to another collecting organisation, see 8.7. If items are transferred to another institution, the museum will ensure the item is appropriate to the organisation’s mission and collection policy, and that they have the resources to manage the item.


8.13 In other cases, where the item is incomplete, in poor condition, and of no value, it may be destroyed or sent to the tip.


8.14 Deaccessioned items may be sold through public auction or other method of sale.


8.15 All funds raised through the sale of deaccessioned items will be used for collection development or new acquisitions or reserved for collection conservation.


8.16 Note the reasons for deaccessioning in the register and catalogue. Draw a line through the object in the accession register. Do not delete the record.


8.17 Any purchase of a deaccessioned item by members, volunteers, staff, or committee members, or their relatives, must be authorised by the Executive Committee. 

9. Loans


9.1 No objects will be accepted on indefinite or long-term loan.


9.2 Loans in or out may only be arranged for fixed periods and for specific purposes.


9.3 Before accepting or making a loan, photograph and record a detailed description of the object’s condition.


9.4 Prepare a written and signed loan agreement between the museum and the lender or borrower, detailing the condition of the object and a fixed time span for the loan. This is signed by the museum and the lender or borrower.


9.5 Ensure that items lent from the museum’s collection are in good condition, and are displayed in appropriate environmental conditions, in places with adequate security and supervision.


10. Exhibition and Education Policies


10.1 Make the collection accessible through well-researched and interpreted displays and public programs.


10.2 Objects made from organic materials will be not be kept on permanent display as they deteriorate over time, e.g. textiles, costumes, leather, bone and original paper items.


10.3 Where possible original historic photographs will be copied, with the copies placed on exhibition and the original photos kept in secure storage and shown for limited periods of time.


10.4 As resources allow, work with local teachers to develop education programs and opportunities for students to learn from the collection.


10.5 In due course explore opportunities to make the collection accessible on the web.


10.6 An Education Collection will be developed comprising objects that may be used for parades, hands-on access and education activities. These items will generally be in good condition. Such objects will be clearly identified in a separate register as part of the Education Collection.


10.7 Items may be transferred from the education collection to the permanent museum collection as understanding of their significance develops or changes.


11. Management of the Collection


11.1 Nominate a team to be responsible for the collection and its management. A representative of the collection management team will be on the museum’s management committee.


11.2 Provide training opportunities for volunteers working on the collection. This should include seeking funding for their participation in workshops and conferences.


11.3 Ensure there is a clean, secure working space for collection documentation, research and significance assessment.


11.4 Regularly monitor and check the condition of the collection on display and in storage.


11.5 As resources allow, conduct a stock take or audit of the collection. Alternatively review designated sections of the collection on an annual basis.


11.6 Before conservation or restoration work to any item in the collection, prepare a statement of significance for the item and an outline of the proposed treatment. Seek advice from a trained conservator before starting work. Small repairs to prevent further deterioration may be made. Note repairs on the catalogue worksheet.


11.7 Photograph and document any restoration or conservation work in the object file, including details of all materials used, processes and people involved in the work.


11.8 Develop an annual work program for collection based on the strategic plan and ensure there is an annual budget line for collection management expenses and training.


11.9 Collection management is a standing item on the agenda of the museum’s regular management committee meetings. The museum’s annual report to members includes a section on the collection management work of the preceding year.


11.10 Regularly review the collection policy as knowledge of the collection develops.


12. Related Collections


12.1 The museum will complement the collections in other museums, galleries, libraries and archives in the region, including Newcastle Regional Museum, Morpeth Museum, Grossman House, Paterson Historical Society, Tocal Homestead, Maitland Embroiderers’ Guild, and the Cavalcade of Fashion.  

12.2 The museum will explore ways of working co-operatively with other museums and partners to collaborate on strategic collecting and research of particular themes and priorities.


13. Strategic Priorities for Collection Assessment and Development




14. Recommendations for collection management


  1. Over time AMCAT should cull the collection to reduce the size of the museum collection to a core of significant objects, and where relevant transfer items into the education collection for more active and hands on use. This is to create a smaller, more significant and sustainable museum collection. The review of the museum collection may be focussed on successive themes as a way of taking stock of what’s in the collection. 

  2. Continue work on reviewing and refining collection themes to focus on collection strengths, and deaccession items of low significance

  3. Some collection themes need more research and significance assessment, building on the statement of significance for the collection.

  4. Identify research projects in the collection and strengthen links with tertiary courses to foster further research.

  5. Continue research and development of object files and statements of significance for the most important objects in each theme. The museum should adopt targets to do a certain number of statements of significance per year, to be itemised in the context of the strategic plan.

  6. As resources permit, place statements of significance on the museum’s web site.

  7. Over time photograph items in the museum collection. This will aid collection management and enhance the security of the collection.

  8. Collection management should be a standing item on the museum’s meeting agendas.

  9. Make the collection policy and information about the collection accessible on the web.

  10. Over time review items held in the education collection to understand their significance and consider if they should be transferred to the permanent museum collection.

  11. Review the collection policy and statement of significance at or before 2020 to take account of changing understanding and uses of the collection.

  12. Form a collection management team or subcommittee to make decisions on new acquisitions, deaccessioning and transfers to the education collection.

  13. Monitor how the collection policy is used and implementation of the recommendations.


[1] ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, International Council of Museums, 2002

[2] Movable Heritage Principles, NSW Heritage Office, NSW Ministry for the Arts, Heritage Information Series, 2000

[3] Significance 2.0, a guide to assessing the significance of collections, Roslyn Russell and Kylie Winkworth, Collections Council of Australia Ltd, 2009

[4] Provenance is the life history of an object, its story, context, use and ideally a sequence of previous owners. For AMCAT provenanced objects are a high priority. 

[5] In the context of the AMCAT collection, completeness may also mean giving preference to outfits that have a full suite of accessories.

[6] See Museums and Galleries NSW Fact Sheet ‘Marking Objects with their Accession Number’

[7] For more information on deaccessioning see the fact sheet on the MGNSW website

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