Documenting Your Collections
Info-Muse Network Documentation Guide

Les guides électroniques de la SMQ

Material (Physical Description)

Field to be used with an authority listField 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)Société des musées québécois Info-Muse database field


  • This field contains the name(s) of the material(s) used in making the object.


  1. For better search results in your database, avoid using a large variety of terms; draw up an authority list and add keywords as necessary.1
  2. This field is used in conjunction with the Technique field.

    A knitted cotton sweater

      Object Namesweater
    Material fibre, cotton
  3. For a two-dimensional object such as a painting, print or photograph, use the Medium and Support fields. However, for such two-dimensional objects as tapestries, tablecloths and ceramic tiles, use the Material and Technique fields.
    Example 1

      Object Namepainting
    Example 2

      Object Name tablecloth
    Materialfibre, linen
      Technique woven

Entry rules:

  1. Enter a generic term for the material, followed by a comma, a space and the specific term.

      Object Namebed
    Material metal, brass
  2. When you have the same generic term for two specific terms, repeat the generic term before each specific term. Separate the entries by a semicolon followed by a space.

      Object Name tapestry
    Material fibre, silk; fibre, cotton
  3. When the specific term is unknown, simply enter the generic term.

      Object Namecoat
    Material fur
  4. Enter the names of the materials used, from the most predominant to the least predominant. Multiple terms should be separated by a semicolon followed by a space.

      Object Name Ramsden electrostatic machine
    Material wood; glass; metal, brass
  5. If you are unsure whether your information is correct, include a space and a question mark after the keyword.
  6. If the information is missing and no research has been conducted to identify the material, leave this field blank.
  7. If, even after conducting research, you are unable to identify the material, enter "unknown".

      Object Namecontainer ?
    Material unknown

  1. For a standardized list of terms, you can consult Ewing, Calum. Standards for the use of the Material (MA), Technique (MT) and related fields in the Humanities National Database of the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). Ottawa: Canadian Heritage Information Network, 1992. © Société des musées du Québec