Online Course: Collections Management

Course Description

This eight week course will introduce participants to the professional principles and practices in the management of museum collections. Topics will include collections development, registration and record keeping with an emphasis on the development of Collection Policies and Procedures and what it means to be intellectually and physically responsible for museum objects.

At the beginning of the course participants will be asked to select five objects from their museum to work with throughout the eight weeks. During the course, participants will be working on a collection management policy draft, and conducting some management tasks with their mini-collection objects.


COURSE DATES: March 2 - April 26, 2020

COST: $195 AASLH Members / $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: December 2, 2019 - February 23, 2020; 30 participant limit

Course Logistics

FORMAT: Online, instructor-led, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Four one-hour online chats, participation is expected for at least two chats - chat schedule to be determined by the instructor at the start of the course - if you are unable to attend a chat you can read the transcript and then post your thoughts/questions in the General Forum; weekly readings and assignments; final course assignment. Students should expect to spend approximately 2-5 hours per week on the course.

MATERIALS: One required text: John E. Simmons, Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies, Washington, DC: American Alliance of Museums, 2006 (ISBN 10:1-933253-03-07). Optional text: Daniel B. Reibel. Registration Methods for the Small MuseumFourth Edition, Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008 (Paperback ISBN 978-0-7591-1131-8)  (Texts are NOT INCLUDED with your registration. You must order the book separately from the book seller of your choice.)

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course (80% or higher) will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Participant Outcomes

By the end of this course participants will:

  • Develop a detailed draft of a Collections Policy
  • Identify a collection of objects
  • Develop a standardized set of registration records and forms including inventory, catalog, accession, and loans
  • Learn about various registration numbering systems and how to mark objects appropriately
  • Discuss issues related to collections strategies, mission, purpose, and scope of collections
  • Develop a broader understanding of legal and ethical concerns of managing collections

Who Should Take This Course

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with collections management. This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern.

Workshop: Collections Management and Practices

Learn about your institution’s responsibility toward its collection, necessary policies and procedures, and the best practices of collection management. Through lively group discussions and hands-on activities, you will become familiar with current issues and trends to better understand how collections fit within the context of history organizations. The workshop will also explore the role of collections in exhibition and interpretation, the basic steps of collections management from acquisition to disposal, professional standards and ethics, conservation on a shoe-string budget, and the many resources available for collections preservation.


FORMAT: On-site group workshop

LENGTH: Two days (9:00 am - 5:00 pm)

DATE: June 3 - 4, 2019

LOCATION: The Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC

MATERIALS: Workshop materials will be provided upon registration and in-person at the event.

COST: $230 AASLH Members / $345 Nonmembers

** Save $40 when you register by May 3, 2019 and use promo code EARLYBIRD19 at checkout! **




Participants of this workshop may be eligible for an AASLH Workshop Scholarship. Each year AASLH offers scholarships to four individuals in the history field to attend an AASLH onsite workshop. Recipients of the New Professional Workshop Scholarship and Diversity Workshop Fellowship receive registration fee reimbursement for one AASLH workshop and one year Individual Membership in AASLH. Registration for 2019 Workshop scholarships is now open. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2019.



Who Should Attend:

This workshop is targeted to new professionals and dedicated volunteers with responsibility for collections.

About the Faculty:

Samantha Forsko is a Preservation Specialist at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

John E. Simmons runs Museologica (a museum consulting service); teaches museum studies for Kent State University, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Museum Study LLC; and serves as Adjunct Curator of Collections at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at Penn State University. He is currently working on a second edition of Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies (expected fall 2017).

FLASH SALE: $10 AASLH Technical Leaflet Bundles

For a limited time, select AASLH Technical Leaflet Bundles are available to download for just $10! (regular price: $22.50)
Sale ends April 6!

We’ve picked four bundles from our library to help you accomplish some “spring cleaning” at your institution! Whether that means maintaining a historic structure, refreshing your programs, or establishing a disaster plan for the organization, spring is the perfect time to re-evaluate your interpretation and approach in time for the warm weather tourist season. AASLH has the resources to help you put your “house” in order and keep it that way!

Choose from these bundles:

Historic House Care and Presentation – BNDL017

This bundle focuses on ensuring that a historic home is furnished and presented accurately, in addition to being well-maintained. This bundle can help if you are transitioning from restoration to presentation or if you are re-evaluating and refining your presentation.

TL113 – Authentic Costuming for Historic Site Guides (1979)
TL122 – Oriental Carpets: Selection, Use, and Care (1979)
TL181 – Wood Floor Management (1992)
TL193 – Draperies for American Windows (1996)
TL218 – How to Write a Furnishing Plan (2002)


Self-Assessment Toolkit – BNDL020

Do you really know your organization? Spend some time evaluating and getting to know your institution. How do you measure the performance of your programs? Do families visit you? Do you really want them to? A little self-evaluation can go a long way toward strengthening your institutional planning. These resources can help you get started.

TL172 – Site Analysis for Tourism Potential (1990)
TL204 – Charting the Impact of Museum Exhibitions and Programs (1999)
TL211 – Performance Checklist for Historical Institutions, Part I (2000)
TL212 – Performance Checklist for Historical Institutions, Part II (2001)
TL221 – Process Benchmarking for Museums (2003)


May Day Resources – BNDL021

This bundle was first created to help organizations take part in the May Day: Planning for Disaster event in 2008. Since then, several national disasters have shown us how important disaster planning is to our institutions. This bundle can help you prepare for the unexpected at your institution, and also participate in this year’s May Day! It may also help your organization achieve the standards set forth under the Stewardship of Collections, the Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes, and the Management sections of the AASLH StEPs program.

TL183 – Disaster Planning for Cultural Institutions (1993)
TL198 – Collections Care: What to Do When You Can’t Afford Anything (1997)
TL206 – Protecting Cultural Heritage Properties From Fire (1999)
TL219 – Closing the Barn Door: Dealing with Security Issues (2002)
TL234 – Disaster Planning, Preparedness, and Recovery (2006)


Help in a Tough Economy – BNDL022

This bundle can advise historical organizations about ways to make the most of their resources during tough economic times. This information offers ways to maximize income and get creative with expenses to help your institution weather these uncertain times. This bundle may also help your institution achieve the standards set forth under the Mission, Vision, and Governance and the Management sections of the AASLH StEPs program.

TL190 – Forming a Purchasing Cooperative (1995)
TL209 – Fundraising for Small Museums (2000)
TL232 – Strike Up the Brand: Creating or Enhancing Your Museum’s Brand Identity (2005)
TL237 – Membership Matters: Establishing a Vital membership Program (2007)
TL242 – DIY Strategic Planning for Small Museums (2008)


Order yours now!

Managing Military Collections in Your Museum

So you work in a small county museum or perhaps even a large institution.

A donor walks in and hands you a uniform and says, “my grandpa wore that in the Civil War.” Your knowledge of collections care and management is outstanding, but you have no idea whether the item the donor has includes the correct provenance, is a fake, or is perhaps from a different conflict, or maybe even from a different nation all together.

myers military camp promo
Where do you turn for help? What determinations about this historic military textile can you make on your own? What details about the garment can help you either prove or disprove the provenance?

Another donor walks into your institution with a photograph of what appears to be soldiers. Your donor knows nothing about the image. How can you begin to determine the time frame of the image or even the nationality?

Back in the 1950s your institution collected everything they could acquire including what appear to be cannon balls, grenades, and firearms. Are they safe? Are they still live? Are the weapons loaded?

AASLH has many resources for dealing with military artifacts, including:

If you have faced any of these challenges or anticipate that you will, then AASLH can offer help. The best way to begin to understand the nature of military collections and the details unique to military artifacts is to attend the AASLH Military Collections Camp in Oklahoma City in June. We will explore these topics and many, many more issues related to military collections. The camp is not only a learning opportunity it is also packed with fun.

Myers Brown is an Archivist III in the Archives Development Program at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. He also is on the faculty for the AASLH Collections Camp: Military History workshop.