Registration (Accessioning) vs Cataloguing

Defining ‘Collection Items’
Collection items are those that meet the requirements of the museum’s Acquisition Policy.
Collection items are not:

  • research resources / reference books
  • spare parts
  • items that are on loan to the museum.

Documenting Collections

  • records and keeps collection information for the future
  • provides useful information for displays and research
  • provides useful information to inform the museum’s disaster preparedness and response plan
  • is a key part of good collection management

Collection documentation is a two-step process including:


i. Registration (Accessioning)

      1. The process of recording brief details about individual items or groups of objects.
        This includes assigning each object a unique identifying number according to an agreed, standard system.All collection items should be accessioned. Registration numbers are ‘unique identifiers’ that link objects to the information about them.


ii. Cataloguing

    1. Is a more advanced step.
      Cataloguing is a systematic process for recording all known information about collection items.
      Catalogue records are much more detailed than for registration.
      There should be one catalogue record for each item or, if relevant, group of items. Museum collections consist of a mix of core and non-core items.

      • core items are those that fully fit the requirements of the museum’s acquisition policy and have clear, relevant provenance (known history) or are examples of ‘type’ objects that fit the acquisition policy

      • non-core items are duplicates and items without provenance that are retained as display props.Only core items need to be fully catalogued.