Manage Your Treasures
As in every other part of our lives,
managing our things is important.
We need to know:
- what we have
- what it is worth
- where it is
- whether or not it is properly insured.
Our special things should be documented with photographic images,
digital images, or video images. They should be recorded in written
inventories and other written records. Family members should
know about them.
Object Documentation - Write It Down
- What is it?
- Why is it important?
- Why do you have it?
- Who should get it when you pass away?
- If you have any receipts or other documentation
- If and where there are photographs or
documents associated with it.
Important items should be properly insured. Insurance agents
can provide needed information to determine the type and amount
A licensed and trained professional appraiser can provide a valid
appraisal of items for insurance and also for sale or donation
of heirlooms to a public institution. Getting a valid appraisal
is the donor's responsibility not that of the museum or recipient
institution. It is a conflict of interest for the recipient institution
to procure the appraisal. IRS regulations require the donor to
There are safe and proper methods for shipping valuable objects
and there are professional packers and shippers in most every
Most of us don't have emergency plans for our families and our
pets, let along our family heirlooms! However, if you ask people
who have been through terrible disasters like floods or hurricanes,
what they are most sad to have lost, they will say their family
photographs. Planning before an emergency can help save things
like the family photographs from complete destruction. Proper
storage methods can also help preserve items in emergency situations.
The Conservation Assessment is a tool, much like a physical exam,
for an institution that holds art or history collections. The
assessment includes and evaluation of all of the institutional
procedures and policies that impact the care and preservation
Heritage Health Index
The Heritage Health Index was the first comprehensive survey
to assess the condition and preservation needs of U.S. collections.
A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the
State of America's Collections, was published in December 2005
and concludes that immediate action is needed to prevent the
loss of 190 million artifacts that are in need of conservation
Professional Museum Collection Management
The American Association of Museums and the American Association
for State and Local History are the two professional organizations
that determine and set current best practices for the care and
management of collections. Their websites contain a great deal
of important information about the professional management of
heirlooms and other collections.
Cataloguing and Inventory
There are well defined professional methods for the inventory
and cataloguing of collections of all types. The websites of
the American Association of Museums and the American Association
for State and Local History include much information and many
resources on cataloguing and inventorying collections.