Collection

Collecting with a system: How do objects get into a collection?

A museum has five main tasks: Teaching/communicating, Exhibiting, Researching, Collecting and Preserving. At the DDR Museum, the last two tasks are taken care of by the collection department. Collecting therefore also means to reasonably enlarge the inventory and to add new objects to the museum's collection. The following blog text will tell you more about how this exactly works.
by Maria Bartholomäus (26 Oct 2016)

A museum has five main tasks: Teaching/communicating, Exhibiting, Researching, Collecting and Preserving. At the DDR Museum, the last two tasks are taken care of by the collection department. Collecting therefore also means to reasonably enlarge the inventory and to add new objects to the museum's collection. The following blog text will tell you more about how this exactly works.

 

Museum collection vs. Assemblage

Every museum has its particular concept which all departments of the institution are based on. This concepts concerns the exhibition department, the public relations, marketing as well as education departments. Of course every museum collection is also based on a specific concept. This is where one can find the criteria which need to be fulfilled in order to add a certain object to the collection. These criteria are for example concerning the object's condition, source, story as well as age. Before an object is added to the collection, all these criteria have to be analyzed carefully. A reconciliation with the already existing inventory is further required. Like this, the museum is able to prevent itself from creating an unorganized assemblage of things in the long term. A collection concept also respects the unity of collecting, exhibiting and scientific research. Museum-specific collecting therefore means that things are taken out of their original reality in order to be put into another as well as being taken into relation with other already collected things. But how exactly do new objects become part of the collection?

 

The donation

The most common way an object becomes part of the collection is when it is being donated to the museum. This means that one or more objects are given to the museum by the donor without getting a monetary return service. Donors can be private persons, institutions or clubs. Usually the collection department is being contacted by the donors; be it via mail, the phone, on social platforms or even in person. In case the potential donation represents a larger amount of things, it might happen that the donor will be visited in advance in order to get an impression of the objects on site. Most of the times, however, it can be judged along photographs whether the offered things should be added to the collection or not. A highly important thing to remember is to document the entire process with all its details. The DDR Museum has a special document for this purpose which holds information of each donor and the related object as well as about the museum's member who received the donation. Like this, it's possible to trace the object's source back years or even decades later. On the homepage of the DDR Museum you can find a list of things that we are still looking for, please feel free to take a look – it is constantly being updated.

 

The purchase

In some circumstances it might also occur that a museum will buy certain objects for its collection. This is especially the case when certain things are needed for exhibition purposes or to complete an already existing ensemble. In this case, most of the time the museum would approach the seller. Of course this is also being documented in an according document.

The permanent loan It is also possible to add an object to the collection only on a temporary basis. This might happen when it is needed as part of a permanent or a special exhibition. Lenders might be private entities, other museums or institutions.

 

Other collecting methods are for example findings (this mostly applies to natural history collections) or exchange.

If you are curious about which of the above categories apply to the objects of the DDR Museum's collection, feel free to browse our online database. Each data set holds information about the object's source, as well as a lot of other interesting information.

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