Scope of Collections and Categories of Collections

As institutions grow and evolve over the years, many find they are custodians of objects that have little relation to their current mission and vision. Compiling a history of the collections you currently manage can oftentimes help you understand why your collection has the scope it does. History is what was acquired and when, as well as why (if you know the reason). Scope focuses on the types of collections you have today and intend to collect in the future. Within the scope of collections, you may also designate categories to help organize the collections. In this module’s webinar, you will hear how museums and archives/special collections create their scope of collections and the common categories found in each type of organization.  

Scope of Collection and Categories of Collections from the Museum Point-of-View webinar is presented by Laura Nemmers, Registrar, Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida. 
The Archives/Special Collections Point-of-View is presented by Dean DeBolt, University Librarian, Special Collections and West Florida Archives, John C. Pace Library, University of West Florida. 

Webinar Length: 29 min. 08 sec.
Note: When viewing the webinar, a new browser page will open.

Discussion Question about Scope of Collections: In the webinar, our presenters spoke about the importance of identifying the scope of your collection—that is the objects currently in your collections and what you would like to collect. Identifying your collection’s strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of how your collections meet the mission of your institution, helps identify scope. Once you identify the quality traits of your current collection, how will that assessment assist you in creating an argument for the types of objects you might want as part of your collection in the future? Or perhaps the types of objects you may want to turn away? How do answers to these questions help you draft a comprehensive scope of collections statement for your policy? 

Discussion Question about Categories of Collections: Most institutions manage more than one type of collection. By ascertaining what types of collections you have at your institution, you will be able to establish how these differing types of objects can be acquired, accessioned, and cared for. Each institution must determine what categories of collections to adopt for their particular organization. For museums, you will often see categories of collections such as: permanent, education, exhibition, or type (i.e. paper, paintings, decorative arts). Archives and libraries often adopt categories such as: rare books, special collections, archives, and manuscripts. Does your institution already have established categories? If so, what types of categories do you use? If not, what types of categories should you establish in your collections management/development policy?

Boynton Beach City Library Archives - Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections (.pdf)

Museum of Science & History of Jacksonville (MOSH) - Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections (.pdf)

Stranahan House - Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections (.pdf)

Tallahassee Museum - Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections (.pdf)
Note:  When viewing the samples a new browser page will open.  

Online Resources
Barona Cultural Center & Museum, Scope of Collections

Chicago History Museum, Scope of Collections

California State Parks, Guidelines for Writing a Scope of Collections Statement

National Park Service (NPS), Museum Handbook, Part 1: Museum Collections, Chapter 2: Scope of Museum Collections 

Speaker Biography
Laura K. Nemmers has been the Registrar at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida since 2005. During her tenure as Registrar, she has conducted seminars and workshops on collections care, co-authored the Harn Museum’s 20th Anniversary catalog, and authored and co-authored numerous publications on collections and collections care. Laura has a MA in Museum Studies from the University of Florida, and BA in Art History from Florida State University.

Dean DeBolt is the University Archivist and Librarian at the University Archives and West Florida History Center, University of West Florida. There he is responsible for a sizeable collection that includes rare books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, and paintings. Dean is also Adjunct Professor in the History Department where he teaches Archives Administration and Management. He holds a MA in Library Science from University of Illinois, and a MA in History from Sangamon State University. He also received an Archives Certificate from Ohio Historical Society.

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