Documenting Your Collections
Info-Muse Network Documentation Guide

Les guides électroniques de la SMQ

Accession Number (Identification)

Mandatory fieldField used for ethnology and history collectionsField used for fine and decorative arts collectionsField used for science and technology collectionsField used for archaeology collections (object data and site data)Field used for natural science collectionsSociété des musées québécois Info-Muse database field


  • This field contains the identifier or main reference number assigned to the specimen. Each number can be assigned to only one specimen.


  1. If your institution is already using a system for assigning accession numbers that meets its needs, it is preferable to keep it rather than renumbering all your collections. However, if you need to adopt a new system of accession numbers, use one consisting of groups of numbers separated by periods. Indicate 1) the year; 2) the lot number1 if applicable; 3) the unit number2 and 4) if appropriate, the component parts.3
  2. The accession number may include two to four kinds of information.
    1. It should include at least two types of information:
      1) the year in which the specimen was acquired by your institution and 2) the unit number. This formula applies as long as a specimen has no component parts and is not part of a lot.


      A naturalized grey squirrel was the twenty-sixth specimen acquired in 1957.

      Accession Number1957.26
       Genus Sciurus
       Species carolinensis
        Quantity Specimen1
    2. It may also include three types of information: 1) the year of acquisition by your institution, 2) the unit number and 3) the number of component parts. This approach is used when the item is not part of a lot.

      component parts
      1987. 176.

      Note that the third detail in the accession number is written in the form "1-x", with the first value always being 1, followed by a dash, and the second corresponding to the total number of component parts.

      A naturalized walrus with two removable canines is the one hundred and seventy-sixth specimen acquired in 1987.

      Accession Number1987.176.1-3
       Genus Odobenus
       Species rasmarus
        Quantity Specimen1
        Specimen Remarks The two canines of the specimen are removable. The specimen body is identified in the storeroom with accession number 1987.176.1; the right canine has accession number 1987.176.2; the left canine has accession number 1987.176.3.
    3. For a specimen with no component parts but that is part of a lot, the accession number includes three details, indicating 1) the year in which your institution acquired the specimen, 2) the lot number and 3) the unit number.

      lot. unit
      1991. 32.

      The thirty-second acquisition in 1991 was a lot consisting of fifty-eight bovid skulls. The last specimen in the lot was a bison skull.

      Accession Number1991.32.58
       Family Bovidae
       Genus Bison
       Species bison
        Specimen Collection 1991.32.1 to 1991.32.58
        Specimen Natureskull
        Quantity Specimen1
    4. For a specimen that is part of a lot and has component parts, the accession number includes the maximum allowable of four details. In this case, enter 1) the year in which your institution acquired the specimen, 2) the lot number, 3) the unit number and 4) the number of parts.

      lot. unit. component parts

      A pronghorn antelope skull and its two horns are the third record in the ninth lot acquired in 1991. There are 10 skulls in all in the lot.

      Accession Number1991.9.3.1-3
       Genus Antilocapra
       Species americana
        Specimen Collection 1991.9.1 to 1991.9.10
        Specimen Nature skull
        Quantity Specimen1
        Specimen Remarks The skull is identified in the storeroom with accession number 1991.9.3.1, the right horn with accession number 1991.9.3.2 and the left horn with accession number 1991.9.3.3.

Entry rules:

  1. If you are using the numbering system suggested by the Info-Muse Network, all four digits in the accession year should be used, to avoid confusion between millennia.

    Record for the third specimen acquired in 1889 (and not in 2889 or 889!)

    Accession Number1889.3
      and not 
      Accession Number889.3
  2. Do not use commas, semicolons or colons in accession numbers.
  3. This field may not contain more than one entry.

  1. "Lot" means a group of specimens sharing variable characteristics. They may be specimens acquired together from the same source, or a group of specimens collected from the same site. Each specimen in the lot must be assigned its own accession number.
  2. The unit number is determined based on the order in which the specimen is entered in your collection.
  3. A piece whose purpose is to complete a specimen of which it is a part is a component part. © Société des musées du Québec