The Paper Trail


Elaine, our Registrar, outlines our accessions procedure.

Back in the 1980s, when I was working as a PA in the Royal Navy, I was given my first computer.  This was, I was told, the dawn of a new age – the paperless office.  I’m still waiting for such an office to arrive!  As I’m sure everyone knows, paper never went away and probably never will.  Despite soft copies, external hard drive storage and now cloud storage, we are still attached to having hard copies of our necessary paperwork and this is as true of museum offices as any other.

When an object is donated to the museum collection it goes through the accessioning process, which requires the generation and completion of several different forms. Once accepted by the curator, the item is given an Accession Number which is recorded in our Accession Log – one of the most important documents in the museum!  I’m sure if there was ever a fire this would be the first thing the curator would grab before leaving!!

The curator then creates an Object Entry Form which contains details of the donor and a brief description of the object.  As Registrar, I then create the computer record for the item and print off forms for signing by the donor.  It’s really important that donors sign over their objects officially so 3 forms are printed – 1 white, 1 yellow, 1 pink.  The donor keeps the pink one and, once signed, the yellow and white copies are kept on file.

The curator also creates a Database Entry Form recording the object in detail so that our central management system – our first port of call when looking for a particular item – can be updated.  With around 9000 objects in the collection, it’s vital to know where each is kept and the CMS, together with paper file backup, helps us achieve this.

Items that are loaned to the museum, either on a long-term basis or for a specific exhibition, go through a similar process, generating their own paperwork.  And when it is decided that an item is no longer to be retained, Exit Forms have to be raised and kept on file.

One donated or loaned object can generate many pieces of paper. So, despite the unbelievable advances in technology since I got my first computer over 30 years ago, it would seem that the paperless office is still a long way off.  And many would say “Hooray” for that!