When we talk about objects in a museum, it is important to understand the difference between the terms “acquisition” and “accession”.  An acquisition refers to items obtained by the museum. An accession is an acquisition that the museum formally adds to its collection to be held in public trust and administered through the collections management policy. 

Today I want to talk about the CatalogIt “Acquisition” profile - what it is for and when it is used.  The “Acquisition” profile is used to record items a museum is acquiring that the museum does not plan on accessioning. Acquisitions may be accepted in different ways - purchase, gift, bequest, or transfer. These are objects that the museum would like to use and track but does not plan to accession.  These are acquisitions of property and may be similar to objects in your collection, but are used for various reasons - from becoming part of your education collection, your exhibition prop collection, a gift of property from an important donor that you would like to track, or just a gift of property you may sell in order to benefit your museum.

For example, you may collect Gold Rush objects to use for your educational collection. These might be authentic items or great reproductions that intend to use for hands-on learning activities, take into schools for special programs, or even use in a mock gold panning exhibition at your museum. Because these objects are handled or used by the public, they will inevitably suffer wear and tear, damage, and in some cases destruction. If these were in your collection you would be obligated to care for them, adhering to professional standards, and would not be able to allow for handling. By bringing them in as an acquisition, you may essentially use them as you wish, dispose of them when they are no longer useful, and acquire new items to replace them. No deaccessioning is required because these objects are considered “property” rather than an accession.

What else is an acquisition? One of your constituents may have left you a bequest of multiple objects that are completely unrelated to your mission. Their Will may have allowed you to sell these items to benefit your collection. The “Acquisition” profile will allow you to track these items while you decide what to do with them. The same is true for other gifts of property that you are not sure what you plan to do with. You may possibly accession two of them and use the rest as props for your installations. You would create an Acquisition  Profile and include all the objects you received. If you decide to accession the two objects in this gift afterall, you can create an “Accession” profile for the two items you are accessioning and then associate the related accession number to the Acquisition. This is an easy way to track the history of your objects while not confusing the non-accessioned objects with the accessioned collections.

CatalogIt makes it really easy to track all types of collections, their status, and intake methods to ensure there is no confusion or misunderstanding. It also allows for a specialized acquisition numbering system to further distinguish these from accessions. CatalogIt defaults to a “Q” prefix: Q2020.1 = the first acquisition of 2020. As with all numbering schemes in CatalogIt, you can specify your pattern to ensure consistency between all users that enter new records, or have “strict accessioning” turned off to allow you to enter whatever numbering system you would like. 

To learn more, and get step by step instructions on how to use this profile, watch a short video here on our Support Site about using the Acquisition Profile.

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