Policies and Plans

This is the page where you can find introductory information about how to develop and maintain the policies and plans of your museum collection.


The California State Parks system offers a downloadable guide for writing a  Scope of Collections Statement .

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, the collections policy of Aurora Regional Fire Museum in Aurora, IL, the collections plan for the Hale-Byrnes House, operated by the Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, in Newark, DE, and the collection development policy for Michigan State University Museum’s Great Lakes Quilt Center.

The Greater Southwest Historical Museum also offers an excellent example of a collections management policy.

This source from the Museum & Galleries NSW is a template of a collections policy, 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.

Accession Forms

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

Here are some templates of accession forms 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.

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 Advanced 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.

Disaster Preparedness

Creating an emergency plan is one of the most important steps you can take towards protecting your collection. The resources below will guide you through the process of creating an emergency plan. Many of these documents have the same information on them, so explore to see which one works best for your institution.

Disaster Preparedness Plans

From the Northeast Museum Services Center, here is a video series on emergency preparedness.

View the Getty Museum’s guide for creating a disaster plan.

The American Alliance of Museums offers Developing a Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Response Plan Reference Guide” as part of preparing for the Core Documents Verification Program.

You may get some ideas from looking at “Be Prepared: Guidelines for Small Museums for Writing a Disaster Preparedness Plan.”

The Pocket Response Plan (PReP)™ is a concise document for recording essential information needed by staff in case of a disaster. Fill in your institution’s information, and then every person having a response-related assignment should carry a plan like this with them at all times: PReP

The Texas Association of Museums PREP: Planning For Response & Emergency Preparedness manual covers preparation and risk management, assessment, and recovery.

Unsure what types of disasters tend to threaten your collection? Check out the declared disasters by year or state from FEMA.

Find out what the ten most common threats to your collection are.

Learn about Exercising Your Disaster Response Plan with this webinar and related materials from theConnecting to Collections Online Community.

The Georgia Archives provides this quick Disaster Prevention and Safety Checklist.

The Dew Point Calculator is a free, web-based application that you can use to find the best environment for your collection based on temperature and relative humidity.

Disaster Response & Recovery Plan

The Georgia Archives provide tips for Responding to a Mold Outbreak.

This Library Disaster Plan Template, created by the California Preservation Program and supported by the IMLS Library Services & Technology Act, includes both disaster preparedness and recovery information tailored to libraries.

The Getty Conservation Institute provides advice for responding to a collections theft.

Find advice on salvaging the following objects from damage from the Northeast Document Conservation Center and the National Park Service:

Wet photographs
Wet books and records
Moldy books and paper
Water-soaked furniture and wood

Risk Assessment

This technical leaflet from the Minnesota Historical Society introduces the unpleasant but necessary subject of risk assessment for your small museum or historic site. It offers good advice on how to begin.

There are many formal and informal ways to assess your collection and its environment. The Conservation Assessment: A Proposed Model for Evaluating Museum Environmental Management Needs, published by the well-respected Getty Conservation Institute, may be used as a guide for assessing and working toward improved collections care.

Need a comprehensive framework for enumerating the many risks your collection faces? Check out the Ten Agents of Deterioration, ranging from “physical force” to “pests” to “thieves and vandals” to “disassociate.” Each section defines the agent, suggests how you can take steps to control the risk, and provides further reading on each risk.

Tips & Tricks

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 request@cool.conservation-us.org that reads: “subscribe consdist YourFirstName YourLastName”.