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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 about it.
  • 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 of insurance.


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 do this.

There are safe and proper methods for shipping valuable objects and there are professional packers and shippers in most every large town.

Emergency Planning
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.

Conservation Assessment

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 of collections.

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 treatment.

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.


Preservation Principles


Types of Material

Types of Objects
   Books / Bibles / Scrapbooks
   Works of Art
   Textiles / Clothing / Uniforms
   Tools / Mechanical / Instruments
   Dishes / Glassware / Silverware
   Native American Items
   Natural History Specimens

More Resources
   Preservation Documents  (pdfs)
   Glossary of Terms
   See what we've done

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Staff   (directory)

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