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 object. Each number can be assigned to only one object.


  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, if appropriate, 4) 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 object was acquired by your institution and 2) the unit number. This approach applies as long as an object has no component parts and is not part of a lot.


      An oil painting on canvas is the twenty-sixth object acquired in 1957.

      Accession Number1957.26
        Object Name painting
       Support canvas
    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 components. This approach is used when the object is not part of a lot.

      component parts
      1987. 176.

      Note that the third information 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 sabre and its sheath constitute the one hundred and seventy-sixth object acquired in 1987.

      Accession Number1987.176.1-2
        Object Namesabre
        Component Part Names sabre; sheath
        Number of Components2
      The accession number will be physically marked on each component part as 1987.176.1 for the sabre and 1987.176.2 for the sheath.
    3. For an object 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 object, 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 objects. The twentieth record in the lot was a baby stroller.

      Accession Number1991.32.20
        Object Namebaby stroller
        Additional Associationslot 1991.32.1 to 1991.32.58
    4. For an object 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 object, 2) the lot number, 3) the unit number and 4) the number of components.

      lot. unit. component parts

      A coffee pot and its lid were the third record in the ninth lot acquired in 1991. There are twenty-four objects in all in the lot.

      Accession Number1991.9.3.1-2
        Object Namecoffee pot
        Component Part Namescoffee pot; lid
        Number of Components2
        Additional Associationslot 1991.9.1 to 1991.9.24
  3. Each object should have its own accession number. However, if you have several similar objects, you may combine them and enter them in a single record. In that case you should include an interval in the Accession Number field.

    Four identical soup plates were acquired together in 1992.

    Accession Number1992.5-8
      Object Namesoup plate
    The accession number will be physically marked on each plate as 1992.5, 1992.6, 1992.7 and 1992.8.

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.

    The third object 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 objects sharing variable characteristics. They may be objects acquired together from the same source, or a group of objects found on the same site during archaeological digs. Each object in the lot must be assigned its own accession number.
  2. The unit number is determined based on the order in which the object is entered in your collection.
  3. A piece whose purpose is to complete an object of which it is a part is a component part. © Société des musées du Québec