Documentation

The Collections Documentation and Records Unit at the Science Museum is made up of four teams - Registry, Cataloguing, Records and Enquiries, and Photo Studio - which between them ensure that from the moment an object enters the Science Museum everything that happens to it is carefully tracked and recorded.

Historic scientific treasures of the South Kensington Museum, London, 1876

These teams also take on a wide range of other roles concerning policy, procedures and data standards across the Museum, and ensure we meet certain legislative requirements and are a recognised place of deposit under public records legislation. While the staff work as a team, they also have their own specialist roles to play in the Museum - and dealing with a collection containing over 200,000 objects, an ongoing programme of new exhibitions, acquisitions, loans and gallery clearances, not to mention 150 years worth of paperwork, means that there is plenty to keep everyone busy!

Registry

The Museum’s Registry provides the procedures for meeting documentation standards in the key functions of acquisition, loans and disposal, as well as other collections management activities, e.g. damage and loss. It ensures that the procedures for these activities are carried out appropriately, ensuring that all information requirements are in place, meeting both the MLA Accreditation Standard requirements and other information retrieval requirements. It provides the foundation on which the Museum can effectively use objects for its stated aims, and is committed to best practice in this area.

Cataloguing

The role of the Cataloguing section is to improve the quality and quantity of the information we have recorded about the Museum collections, and to offer advice in ways of standardising what kinds of information are recorded and how. This section works closely with the other parts of the Documentation and Records Unit.

In the Museum it also coordinates gallery clearances in conjunction with the workshop clearance teams and Conservation, making sure the objects are fully documented before they go into storage, and takes the lead on documentation projects throughout the Museum.

Collections information system

MIMSY XG, an Oracle-based collections management package developed for museums by a US company, is the collections management database used by the Science Museum Group (SMG), of which the Science Museum is just one part. Currently there are over 478,500 records in the database.

The package supports not only text but also images, sound and video, which can be used for exhibitions and websites. MIMSY XG stores object records containing information about each object, such as its name, description and physical attributes (size, materials, etc.), and a wide variety of other details relating to the object. MIMSY XG is also used to store information about physical files kept within the Documentation and Records Centre and is an indispensable working tool for the Collections Unit.

Records and Enquires

The Documentation and Records Unit manages and stores the Science Museum's historic and current records, including those relating to objects, donors and past and present corporate activities.

Files include correspondence concerning the acquisition, display and loan of objects, and information on projects such as the development of new galleries and exhibitions. Records and Enquiries is also responsible for answering Information Rights enquiries, and facilitating visits by researchers.

Photo Studio

Photo Studio provides a professional photographic and imaging service, creating and delivering high-quality images of the Museum’s objects, archives, books and other material for promotion, documentation, research, exhibition, web use and income generation. The photographers carry out a wide variety of work in the studio, in the Museum's galleries, in object stores and on location.

Enquiries

If you have an enquiry about objects in our collections please visit our enquiries page for further information.

If you would like to make a research appointment to view our files in the Documentation and Records Centre at the Science Museum please send an e-mail to scmobjectenquiries@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

Alternatively you can write to

Records and Enquiries Officer
Science Museum
Exhibition Road
London
SW7 2DD