Documenting Your Collections
Info-Muse Network Documentation Guide

Les guides électroniques de la SMQ

The Info-Muse Network documentation system

The Info-Muse Network documentation system is based on museum practices in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. It was developed in close collaboration with various bodies and museums in Quebec and the rest of Canada, and with many experts from the different scientific validation committees for the tools designed by the Network. The standards proposed by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) since the 1970s served as the starting point for developing the system,1 meaning that it is in line with the main national and international standards for documenting museum collections.

Implementing an efficient and effective documentation system means methodically organizing all the data on each object in a collection. This process starts with intrinsic data, i.e. relating to the object's physical characteristics, including its identification, dimensions, materials or description. Then extrinsic data are added, i.e. details relating to the life of and scientific knowledge regarding the object, such as its artist or manufacturer, origin, use or culture. In a museum, these data are usually found in various forms and documents: the accession register, a handwritten cataloguing worksheet, an exhibition file, the location register, a collection management software, etc. The beauty of a documentation system is that it brings all these data together in a single highly structured document, so as to present them clearly, concisely and consistently.

A well-organized documentation system makes it possible to quickly identify each object in a collection, to better understand how the object fits into the collection, and to comprehend the collection itself. Such a system makes it easier to manage collections and preserve objects, serves as a good incentive for conducting further research on collections, and protects the long-term value of data. As well, it means that information on collections can be better disseminated to staff, researchers and members of the public.

  1. The Info-Muse Network has benefited from the support of CHIN ever since the beginning, in particular for hosting and managing the Info-Muse database. © Société des musées du Québec