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This training is for
people working with museum collections
beginner to learn the techniques/advanced for putting them into practice
How to complete the training
follow the sections below in order, watch the videos and read the added resources.
Labelling objects in a collection can be time consuming but is a necessary step in enabling you to identify, manage and care for a collection.
It is crucial to remember that part of what makes an object important to a collection is its history.
Labelling an object with a number allows you to directly connect the object to all the information you hold about it including its history. The object label is a passport to travel, enabling an object to move without risk of losing its identity. The label however is not intrinsic to the object itself so there are aspects to consider before physically applying any label to the surface of any object.
This training and guidance sets out best practice techniques and materials when adding labels to objects in your museum collections.
There are a number of factors to consider before labelling an object:
Is the label secure?
Is it reversible?
Is it safe for the object?
Is it discreet?
Is it visible?
Is it clear and accurate?
Are there removable parts?
Museums and galleries have been labelling objects with numbers for many years; with this in mind it is not surprising that materials and methods used have changed as technology and knowledge has evolved.
Many objects in collections bear the scars of past labelling methods but all we can do is stay abreast of what is safe and works best for what we know at the present.
There are however some commonly used items for labelling that should be avoided at all costs despite seeming useful.
We've listed them below:
Typing Correction Fluid
This material is extremely harmful to the surface of objects and often is irreversible. Not only that, it ages badly and may flake and disappear in spots leaving a shadow of the number but not an identity.
Although lovely on nails, everyone who uses it has experienced the harm it does to the nail surface. The same goes for an object.
Not only are the pigments/dyes used possibly irreversible but the chemicals added to the varnishes have the potential to react with the surface of an object.
Nail Polish Remover
Although these products often contain Acetone, it is best to steer clear of polish removers as many of them contain additional conditioners and chemicals designed to add smell or colour or just ease the harm on a human nail; these additions could cause irreversible harm to an object’s surface.
Always ensure you use pure Acetone when required to remove labels.
It is important to always choose a labelling method appropriate to the object.
If the object is very fragile or is a loan to your collection, you can use a simple Tyvek tag to attach its number and ensure its identity is not lost instead.
In addition, the below information is a guideline only and you should always consult with a conservator before labelling something with what you feel may not be appropriate.
This booklet is great for breaking down what method to use and when for labelling objects.
A Simple Guide to Labelling Museum Objects (pdf)
A downloadable PDF resource providing an overview of labelling dos and don’ts
A link through the Collections Trust website to the National Museums Liverpool’s PDF resource for making and labelling objects.
This resource gives guidance on numbering your collection, on different types and number formats and a summary of commonly occurring issues surrounding numbering.
This resources gives some examples of good and bad object labelling from National Museums Scotland's collections.
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