Manage collections 

Management of collection and taonga records

Object entry flow chart (PDF, 163kB)

North Otago Museum collection management policy - example (DOC, 343kB)

Akaroa Museum collection policy - example (DOC, 69kB)

North Otago Museum Deed of Gift form - example (DOC, 37kB)

Organising your collection store - Museums Australia Victoria

Collection management presentations

Acquisition presentation (PPT, 7.33MB)

Cataloguing presentation (PPT, 780kB)

United we stand: opportunities for museums worldwide - Nick Poole, Collections Trust UK, Wellington, October 2010 (MP3, 52.5MB)

Legal documentation and policies

Copyright and Museums - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 4.5MB)

Acquisition and deaccession

Where can I find information about the acquisition and deaccession of objects?

Objects need to go through a formal process when coming into or out of a collection. When doing so, consult with your organisation’s collection policy to see if the object would be a good fit for the collection. Does it fall in line with the overall mission of the museum? Will it be relevant to your target audience or community?


When deciding to acquire an object, make sure that it is something that fits with the needs of the museum and the community. What kind of story does the object help to tell? You will need to ask questions about its history, who owned it, how it was used, and where it came from. The value in objects is in the stories that they tell about people from the past.

It is very important to have a collection policy in place to help guide your organisation with these types of decisions. Your museum will also need to have the proper space to display or store the object, and the resources to care for it for years down the line.For taonga Māori (Māori treasures), you will need to seek iwi (tribal) input as well.


There are several reasons why a museum may decide to remove something from its collection. Perhaps an object has become too expensive to care for, or is no longer relevant to the collection. In some cases an object may have been damaged or reached a point of significant decomposition, or a museum may have duplicate versions of the same thing. There are a few ways that a museum can release an object. Items can be given to other museums, returned to donors, sold to the public, or disposed of.

Many things need to be considered when an object is deaccessioned. For example, if there are uncertainties over how an object was originally obtained, it would be difficult to transfer ownership. The wishes of the community also need to be considered. The public may disagree with a decision to remove something. It is important to have a clear written process sanctioned by the governing committee or trust.

Read more about acquisitions and deaccessions:

A Guide to Guardians of Iwi Treasures He Tohu ki ngā Kaitiaki o ngā Taonga-a-iwi (PDF, 752kB)

Developing Your Collection: Acquisition and Deaccession Policies - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 732kB) 

 Acquisition process (DOC, 45kB)

 Deaccession process (DOC, 36kB) 

How do I get my collection valued and insured?

Insurance for collections is crucial in protecting your organisation in cases of theft, fire, accident or natural disaster. To get insurance, you will first need to value your collection.

When carrying out a valuation, take full stock of your collection and clearly identify what is being valued. You may want to consult with auction houses such as Webbs or Dunbar Sloanes, or other antique dealers and auctioneers to assist with a valuation. Be sure that whoever you consult with has expertise in the area and is able to give you a signed valuation based on knowledge of prices. You maybe also wish to check out what similar items are going for on websites like TradeMe or refer to Miller’s Antiques which produces a price guide every year.

Some items will be particularly difficult to value and you will need to try different methods in order to determine what an object is worth. For some items, there may not necessarily be a known market value so you will instead have to consider what the costs of a similar replacement would be.

Be sure to keep copies of all of the records associated with your collection and keep regular notes during the valuation process. When arranging insurance you will likely need to prioritise your collection and decide which pieces need more coverage than others. Keep in mind that your insurance company may require you to display and store your collection in a certain way, or ask you to make changes to improve security.

Some smaller museums get a contribution from their local council to assist with insurance, especially for heritage buildings, so be sure to look into this. Te Papa can give you advice on where to seek valuations, but doesn’t give valuations itself. It would be unethical to do so because Te Papa also buys collection items.

Read more about the process:

Valuing Collections - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 632kB)

For more information, contact us.

Found Māori objects (Taonga Tūturu)

Someone found a Māori object and brought it to the museum - what next?

Newly found Māori objects, or taonga tūturu, are in the first instance Crown owned to allow for claims of ownership. The objects have to be notified to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Experienced Museum staff should fill out a “Notification of Found Tonga Tūturu” form and submit with photographs or sketches of the taonga tūturu, to the Ministry. Suitably qualified archaeologists, Department of Conservation or New Zealand Historic Places Trust staff can also complete the forms if no one at the museum is qualified to do so.

Get a ‘z’ number for your Taonga

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage assigns the taonga tūturu a registration number once it has received the notification form. The notifying museum is then asked to write the number on the taonga tūturu.

Put a ‘z’ number label on the object

It is very important that the number is applied in a way which is long-lasting, yet will not damage the object. Depending on the type of objects, there are various techniques you can use to mark objects. Some guidelines for Taonga* are provided below:

  • The 'z' number would usually be put on by museum staff.
  • The method is usually to apply a layer of clear lacquer in an inconspicuous place; allow that to dry, then write the number on in ink; allow that to dry, then apply another layer of lacquer over the top; allow that to dry.
  • If the surface is too rough or porous then Japanese tissue may be used. Tear a small piece to desired shape (frayed edges needed); write number on in pencil; paint with special paste and apply to the object.
  • The usual method for cloaks is to sew a cotton tag/label on the rear.

*The lacquer method usually works for most Taonga made from wood and stone etc, and sometimes for textiles too with a broad leaf to write on. The paper method works for surfaces such as finely plaited textiles (rough surface), porous surfaces such as pumice, rough stone surfaces, fragile & rough wooden surfaces such as those sometimes found on wooden taonga recovered from waterlogged ground.

Always seek guidance from a conservator or a museum professional, or contact us if you need further guidance. 

Collection Management Systems

How do I decide on the most appropriate Collection Management System to use?

A well thought-out and organised collection is very important to a museum’s well-being and the right collections management system will help with this. Having records that are accurately and thoroughly documented can help you get the most out of your collection. A great resource is Museums Australia's Small Museums Cataloguing Manual. To get started read:

 Deciding on Digital Tools for Collection Management - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 550kB)

Get in touch with other museums and galleries in your local area to see what sort of systems they are using. It is important to use something that can get good IT support. By using the same system as others in you area you can have local support discussions and shared learning projects.

The following are some options of collections management systems:

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