What are collections and how are they managed?

While museums are known for exhibitions and galleries, the majority of the collections are not on view, but cared for in storage where objects and archives are carefully packed and organised.

Museum collections can include:

  • Objects
  • Paper documents
  • Photographs
  • Films
  • Sound recordings
  • Information about topics that connect any of the above

Museums manage their collections using databases, where each object has a unique identification number, called an accession number. This allows museum staff to record information about each object, such as:

  • The exact location of each object
  • Where the object was collected
  • When it was collected
  • Who was involved in its acquisition
  • What it is
  • Who made it
  • What it is used for

A lot of this data is now publicly available online.

What is in the collections online

All of the anthropology objects in the Horniman’s collections have a record online, and about one-third have an image. We are working on increasing the records online from the remaining collections, as well as increasing the number with photographs.

The Horniman’s website contains a lot of useful information about the Museum and Gardens, its governance, history and its collections.

You can also find a broad overview of the collections, as well as being able to search the collections directly.

Some of our records are classified as archival. This includes things like photographs, Horniman annual reports, and correspondence. Currently, the functionally for searching these archives is not great, but associated archives should show up in a search unless you have unticked the “Archives” box in the filter screen. If you search “Annual Reports” in the search field, you should bring up all the annual reports that have been scanned.

You can also search the Horniman Library catalogue online.

If you have any questions about the collections, you can contact us via enquiry@horniman.ac.uk – please include as much information as possible to help us in aiding you.