Sustaining Places

Resources for small museums and historic sites

Collections Management

Collections Policies and Plans

The California State Parks system has a comprehensive Scope of Collections Statement.

If you are looking to digitize your collection, check out this booklet for a few tips on how to plan and execute the move (PDF).

The American Alliance of Museums offers a complete guide on Developing a Collections Management Policy.

From Connecting to Collections, a webinar on Essential Elements of a Collections Management Policy.”

For examples of collections policies, check out the State of Delaware Department of Historical and Cultural Affairs Collections Policy (PDF), the collections policy (HTML) of Aurora Regional Fire Museum in Aurora, IL, the collections plan (PDF) for the Hale-Byrnes House, operated by the Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, in Newark, DE, and the collection development policy (HTML) for Michigan State University Museum’s Great Lakes Quilt Center.

The Greater Southwest Historical Museum also offers a very solid example of a collections management policy.

This source from the Museum & Galleries NSW is a template of a collections policy (PDF), including explanations of the different elements of a policy, examples, and useful fill-in-the-blank sections. Although it was created in Australia, it is still a useful starting point for a small museum collection policy.

“Deaccession and Disposal for Small Museums” is a fact sheet published by Museums & Galleries of New South Wales. The best thing about this is the diagram of the process that you can use to guide the process of removing inappropriate collections items from your own organization.

Wondering how to go about deaccessioning an object? This AASLH webinar “Deaccessioning is Not a 4-Letter Word” should give you some ideas.

Accession Forms

The National Park Service has published a very helpful guide to museum records.

The LBJ Museum in San Marcos, TX has posted their deed of gift form (PDF).

The Ellsworth Historical Society in Maine has a deed of gift form, a cooperative agreement form, and donation information form (PDFs).

Here are some templates of accession forms (PDF) from the Illinois State Museum. Included are catalog, condition report, deed of gift, and donor questionnaire forms that cover a range of materials to assure that you receive legal, provenance, and condition information about an object as it enters your collection.

This cataloging manual for small museums by Museums Australia, has a terrific outline of considerations and procedures for cataloging collections (PDF).

Collections Management Software

PastPerfect is the leading software for museums.  The PastPerfect Software website provides software user guides as well as free webinars to show you how to get the most out of the software.  Training CDs will also be available through our Media & Collections Care Lending Library.

Filemaker Pro is another collections database and provides web seminars for additional training.

Collective Access is highly customizable and allows you to create categories that other collections management software do not include.  You can download a demo or a copy of the software from their site as well as explore projects that are currently using the software.


Need to return those items you have on extended loan from another institution? These sample return letters, one citing limited space another citing increased insurance costs, from the Brandywine River Museum will help.

Digital Collections

The National Information Standards Organization has published “A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections” (2007) which walks you through creating collection, objects, and metadata principles.

Here is a webinar led by Amanda Shepp of the Skeptiseum on “Digital Collections: A Future for Small Museums.”

Another resource that focuses on small museums: “Digital Strategies in Practice: Ideas for Small Museums.”

Want to learn the basics of imaging technology? Check out this guide, “Introduction to Imaging,” from the Getty.

Object photography often isn’t as easy as it might seem. This video will give you some tips.

eHive was created to give small museums an easy, low-cost way to share collections over the web using images and texts.

LibraryThing is a web site that allows users to share their book collections and can be used for small libraries, research collections, or museums (check out this list of museum members to view their collections).

HistoryPin goes beyond your small museum and allows the community to pin their local and family history to your collection.  Hagley Museum and Library has an excellent HistoryPin channel to view as you create one for your museum.

Online Forums

CoOL is a website dedicated to providing online resources for conservators, collection care specialists, and other professionals whose work touches on caring for collections. The Cons DistList and ConsDir form a forum open to conservators, librarians, archivists, and the like. To sign up for ConsDir, send a one-line e-mail to that reads: “subscribe  consdist  YourFirstName YourLastName”

Mailing Address

University of Delaware
Museum Studies Program, Sustaining Places
77 E. Main St.
Newark, DE 19711