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U.S. Department of the Interior - Museum Program
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Best Practices for Managing Federal Museum Collections



Millions of artifacts and specimens collected as a result of Federal activities are held in public trust by more than one thousand Federal and non-Federal institutions throughout the United States. The Interagency Federal Collections Alliance encourages the use of best practices for managing museum collections at all institutions holding Federal collections.

The statements below link to information resources throughout the Federal government and museum communities. Basic to the responsible stewardship of Federal museum collections is the understanding that museum collections must be managed differently from other Federal property. Preservation of the collections in good condition for long periods of time requires more stable environments, better security, and more complete documentation to ensure continuing availability of the collections for use in providing services to the American people.

A. Meet Government-wide Mandates

A-1 Know criteria that define Federal property as museum collections
A-2 Know laws and other mandates for managing Federal museum collections
A-3 Know why you have Federal museum collections
A-4 Know the roles of property accountable officers, custodial officers, and discipline specialists in the accountability system, and of others who may share management responsibilities for the Federal museum collections

B. Provide Good Customer Service

B-1 Know the history and missions of the agencies responsible for Federal museum collections
B-2 Know who cares about the management of your Federal museum collections
B-3 Know discipline-specific standards for managing Federal museum collections
B-4 Know the location of each object in your Federal museum collections
B-5 Know the condition of your Federal museum collections
B-6 Know how to access any object in your Federal museum collections [access for accountability, physical access, access to associated information, history of access and use]
B-7 Know restrictions associated with objects in your Federal museum collections
B-8 Know which objects in your Federal museum collections have been featured in publications

C. Manage for the Long-Term

C-1 Know the legal status of each object in your Federal museum collections
C-2 Know the condition of containers, equipment and facilities used to house your Federal museum collections
C-3 Know cyclical maintenance and conservation needs of objects or groups of objects in your Federal museum collections
C-4 Know conservation treatment needs of objects in your Federal museum collections
C-5 Know the values associated with objects in your Federal museum collections [historic, aesthetic, scientific, and monetary values]
C-6 Know the security requirements for objects in your Federal museum collections
C-7 Know sources of funding for managing Federal museum collection
C-8 Know that it is your legal responsibility to care for collections, and therefore your financial responsibility to provide for that care