When Collections Lead to Connections

Libraries, museums, and archives each exist to protect and manage collections and provide access to them, but their practices and perspectives can differ widely. Even when they support the same organization, they may work at cross-purposes and degrade rather than enhance the user experience.

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How can staff in each of these areas be encouraged to share their resources and skills and work collaboratively? At the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the solution was a pan-domain review of the library, museum, and archives collections—a review of the different collections using a single methodology.

“Reviews of this type are perhaps more common in the museum and archives sectors, although usually they are confined to one domain,” writes Sarah Kennedy, a librarian at the Royal College, in Information Outlook. “Quite often, collections reviews in libraries have more defined goals or a specific purpose, such as to identify items for de-accessioning. In contrast, this review is broader, aiming to take a high-level overview of the entirety of the collections and use the data gathered for future strategic planning.”

As might be expected, the review has created links between items in the collections, opening the door to exhibitions that can provide a more rewarding user experience. And because the review requires collaboration among library, archives, and museum staff, it has also facilitated new and stronger connections across the domains and forged a common sense of purpose and direction.

“Rather than stressing the differences in practices across the domains, the review is showing that the divisions we erect can sometimes be quite arbitrary, especially from the point of view of the user,” Sarah writes. “… In the beginning, the aim of the project was to provide data and give an overview of the collections. What it has achieved is not only the creation of such an evidence base, but also a new way of working collaboratively, creating and enhancing working relationships across the domains for the benefit of both the collections and those who wish to use them.”

To read the article, “Creating Connections through a Collections Review,” click here.

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