Director's Order graphic



A. Introduction and Objectives

Museum collections (objects, specimens, and archival and manuscript collections) are important park resources in their own right as well as being valuable for the information they provide about processes, events, and interactions among people and the environment. Natural and cultural objects and their associated records provide baseline data, serving as scientific and historical documentation of the park's resources and purpose. All resource management records that are directly associated with museum objects are managed as museum property. These and other resource management records are preserved as part of the archival and manuscript collection because they document and provide an information base for the continuing management of the park's resources. Museum objects used in exhibits, furnished historic structures, and other interpretive programs help visitors gain better understanding of the events, activities, and people commemorated by parks.

Although museum objects are sometimes perceived as entities separate from other park resources, they are, in fact, inextricably interwoven. Archeological assemblages recovered in situ remain resources after their excavation, while their associated records document their relationship to the site. At Dinosaur National Monument paleontological quarry maps graphically preserve irreplaceable information about the relationships between individual fossil bones, the relationships among specimens, and the three-dimensional orientation of the bones. Such maps are essential in the preparation and interpretation of fossil bones collected at a site and in research on them. Historic furnishings within their related structures preserve the resource as a whole. The integrity of the Old House at Adams National Historic Site, for example, would be severely compromised without its contents. To separate one kind of resource from another diminishes both. Management decisions that may directly or indirectly impact museum collections must take these relationships into account.

Note: "Object" as used in this chapter has a different meaning from its use as a historic property category of the National Register of Historic Places. This chapter is concerned with "prehistoric and historic objects, artifacts, works of art, archival documents, and natural history specimens that are part of museum collections. Elements, fragments, and components of structures are objects if they are no longer a part of the original structure" (410 DM 114-60.100(n)). "Objects" in the National Register are relatively small structures (e.g., boundary markers, fountains, sculpture, statuary) generally fixed in place. Museum objects are normally not listed in the National Register except as contributing elements of historic buildings or districts. (See National Register Bulletin 15, How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, for more on the Register's object category.)

Note: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Records Management Guideline (NPS-19) refer to NPS official records as "records" and non-official records as "non-records." Because the term "record" is commonly defined more broadly to include "information fixed in a tangible form," this guidance describes federal government records managed under NARA standards as "official" and records not subject to NARA authority as "non-official."

1. Types of Museum Collections

Cultural collections contain materials pertinent to such disciplines as archeology, ethnography, and history. Archeological collections are based on materials systematically acquired within a park as a result of a research project or a park management need. They include artifacts, specimens, and associated records. (Refer to 36 CFR Part 79, "Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archeological Collections," Section 4, for a detailed definition of archeological collections and associated records.) Ethnographic collections consist of objects associated with contemporary cultures and the records that document their collection and study. Most NPS ethnographic collections are from Native American, Polynesian, or Micronesian peoples who have occupied an area within a park or who have some other present or past park association. Historical collections encompass diverse materials made or used by cultures with a written tradition up to the present time. Historic objects relate to the people, activities, and events associated with a park's mission, themes, and history. These include archival, electronic, audiovisual, and textual paper records.

Natural history collections contain biological, geological, paleontological, and environmental specimens and associated records such as collection inventories; computer documentation and data; conservation treatment records; field catalogs; field notes; lists, maps, and drawings; photographic negatives, prints, and slides; manuscripts; reports; and resource identification documentation. Biological collections (flora and fauna) help establish resource baselines by demonstrating what species were present in parks at particular times. They can aid in identifying environmental changes and their causes and provide information needed to restore cultural landscapes. Geological collections support the study of processes that have formed the land. Paleontological collections preserve fossil plants and animals or their traces to assist the study of past life. Environmental samples are collected and preserved to study the presence and effect of toxic compounds on park ecosystems.

(The NPS Museum Handbook, Part I, Museum Collections, Chapter 1, discusses cultural and natural history collections. The Natural Resources Management Guideline [NPS-77], Chapter 5, "Collections," provides definitions and a discussion of natural history collections.)

Museum archival and manuscript collections (non-official records) include all types of documentary records that contribute substantially to the understanding, interpretation, and management of other park resources (cultural and natural) as well as being important resources in their own right. These non-official records are managed as part of the museum collection. These collections are arranged and described according to the standards stated in the Museum Handbook, Part II, Museum Records, Appendix D.

Museum archival and manuscript collections are divided into five non—mutually exclusive categories: personal papers, organizational archives (acquired archives), assembled manuscript collections, resource management records (including associated records), and sub-official records (copies and duplicates). (The figure on the following page diagrams the categories of documentary records.)

Personal papers are records that have been created or accumulated by an individual or a family. Personal papers that are associated with the history of a park (e.g., with a park's founders, formative staff, or eminent associated individuals) may be acquired for the museum collection.

Organizational archives are organic collections created by an organization as a routine part of doing business, such as correspondence and fiscal and personnel records. A park may acquire organizational records that are related to or associated with its mission or history before its establishment (e.g., the Edison Archives at Edison National Historic Site).

Assembled collections are accumulations of documents such as manuscripts assembled by a collector and are generally unrelated by provenance. Documents in these collections usually are on a single topic, in a single format, or associated with a single individual. Assembled collections are also called special or manuscript collections.

Resource management records include documentation made or acquired by a park to record information on cultural and natural resources. Resource management records are the documentary products of archeological surveys and excavations, natural resource surveys, historic structure and cultural landscape research, scientific projects, and various natural and cultural resource maintenance projects. These records document park resources and serve as information bases for their continuing management. Resource management records include but are not limited to artifact and specimen inventories; computer disks, tapes, and other electronic media; drawings; field notes; films; laboratory reports; maps; manuscripts; oral histories; printouts of computerized data; photographic negatives, prints, and slides; reports; and audio and video tapes.



Documentary Records


Museum Archival & Manuscript Collections

See NPS Museum Handbook


Official Records

See NPS-19 Records Management Guidelines




(Acquired Archives)


Assembled Manuscript Collections


Resource Management Records


Sub-Official Records


Inactive Records

Transfer to Federal Records Center/NARA see NPS-19


Active Records

Managed by NPS, see NPS-19


Associated Records


Museum Records

Resource management records may or may not be directly related to museum objects (artifacts or specimens). For example, an object obtained from an archeological excavation relates directly to the records of the excavation. If associated with other museum objects, these documents are also known as "associated records."

Associated records are a subset of resource management records essential for the control and use of related museum objects. They include all documentation generated by the activity of collecting and analyzing artifacts, specimens, or other resources that are (or subsequently may be) designated as part of a park's museum collection. Examples include but are not limited to analytical study data; artifact or specimen inventories; computer documentation and data; conservation treatment records; daily journals; drawings; field notes; manuscripts; maps; photographic negatives, prints, and slides; and reports generated by archeological and scientific investigations. All associated records must be managed as part of the museum collection. See also the definition in 36 CFR Part 79.

Sub-official records are those non-official files of copies or duplicate documents (e.g., carbon copies, copies of internal policies and procedures, desk files, reports, or subject files of individuals or offices) that are useful for reference, administrative histories, interpretation, research, and other informational purposes.

Most park museum archival and manuscript collections (with a few exceptions) are not official records as defined by the National Archives and Records Administration (44 USC 3301), since they are made or acquired for reference or exhibition. The following discussion provides guidance for determining the status of records.

Resource management records are the park's key reference resources on cultural and natural resources, and associated records are the park's key reference resources on cultural and natural history museum collections that contain baseline park information used on a regular basis. Resource management records are non-official records created for reference and are cataloged into the museum property system. Some resource management records were created in response to specific federal requirements (e.g., government audits or inquiries) rather than reference. These records are sent to the federal records centers as prescribed in the Records Management Guideline.

Sub-official records are not considered necessary for permanent retention by the National Archives and Records Administration because NARA only retains original records. Personal papers and organizational archives are acquired as they relate directly to a park's history and are necessary for reference or exhibition for purposes of interpretation, management, and history. Assembled collections of topical or special format materials are also created and acquired for reference purposes.

Records created for purposes other than reference or exhibition, such as budget, contracting, and personnel records and central correspondence files, are considered official records. After official records are judged non-current, they must be disposed of in accordance with the records schedule provided in the Records Management Guideline. When there is uncertainty about a collection's category, the support office curator and the records manager should be contacted for guidance.

On occasion it is unclear to park staff whether records belong in park libraries or in park museum archival and manuscript collections. If an item is an external (non—Interior Department) publication, such as a book or journal published by a university press, that is not rare or from the park's historic period, it belongs in the library collection. If the item is an original or unpublished (i.e., visual or audiovisual material, document, manuscript, report, or other archival document type), or if it is rare or from the park's historic period, it belongs in the museum archival and manuscript collections. Sub-official records (i.e., files of duplicates or copies including documents and reports) are not part of park library collections as they are not true external publications, but rather are unpublished documents. They should be included in the museum collection.

2. Library Materials

In general, books and serials that are not rare and other published reference materials that are housed in park, center, and office libraries are managed according to National Park Service Library Program (Special Directive 94-1) and the Library Management Guideline (NPS-84), and not as part of the museum collection. Books and other library materials used in exhibits or as furnishings in historic structures, retained for their physical properties or their associative value, or considered rare are always managed as part of the museum collection. These materials also may be cross-referenced to other research resources including museum archive and library finding aids (indices and card catalogs).

The Information and Telecommunications Center, NPS Headquarters Office, is responsible for ensuring "that libraries and other information resources are coordinated and integrated so as to effectively satisfy Servicewide needs and priorities" (145 DM 103.D). This activity is conducted as part of the Information Resources Management Review program as mandated by the Department of the Interior and the General Services Administration (44 USC 3506(c)(8)).

3. Program Objectives

Park managers are responsible for ensuring that needed research and documentation (e.g., accessioning and cataloging) are conducted on and for the museum objects in their custody, that the objects are adequately considered in planning, and that they are given appropriate stewardship.

Research is conducted to ensure the appropriateness of a collection, to validate the sources and authenticity of objects, to analyze objects for proper preservation, storage and conservation treatment, to determine suitable furnishings for historic structures, and to include objects in interpreting a park's mission.

Planning for museum objects focuses on how objects should be stored, exhibited, and used to best serve their preservation, understanding, and use.

Stewardship of museum objects entails ensuring that objects are protected against theft, fire, floods, and other threats; implementing a preservation program that emphasizes preventive conservation; and performing cyclic monitoring to identify and ensure correction of deficiencies in protection, preservation, and documentation.

B. Research

1. Scope of Collections

Park superintendents, by delegation, represent the director and the secretary of the interior in accepting title to and responsibility for managing park museum collections. NPS policy permits and encourages the acquisition of museum objects by gift, purchase, exchange, transfer, field collection, and loan under the authorities of the Antiquities Act of 1906, the National Park Service Act of 1916, the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the Management of Museum Properties Act of 1955, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended.

As specified in the NPS Management Policies, the proper content of a park's museum collection must be defined in an approved scope of collection statement (SOCS). A SOCS is a stand-alone document. It states the significance of the collection and sets limits on it based on the park's purpose and interpretive objectives as enunciated in legislation, other mandates, and park-specific planning documents. The SOCS is prepared at the park, reviewed by appropriate park and support office staff, and approved by the park superintendent. A park lacking a museum collection and not intending to acquire museum objects must submit a brief SOCS to that effect. The SOCS must be reviewed periodically and revised whenever changed conditions clearly alter a park's mission. (See the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 2, for guidance in writing and implementing a SOCS and Part II, Appendix D, for guidance on preparing a documentation strategy statement for archival and manuscript collections.)

2. Acquisition

Service policy is to accept only unrestricted gifts and bequests. Parks must ensure that owners of potential museum objects have valid title before transfer of ownership. Parks will consult with affected Native American groups if a proposed acquisition involves human remains and associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. Parks that acquire objects and archival and manuscript collections (including photographic materials and sound recordings) or works of art by gift, purchase, or exchange need to determine who owns the copyrights and where possible secure their transfer to the NPS. (For guidance on acquisition procedures and copyright, see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 2, and Part II, Chapter 2 and Appendix D.) They may also request release forms for photographs, motion pictures, and videotapes (model release forms) and oral history audio tapes (interview release forms).

All objects and archival and manuscript collections considered for acquisition (including collections created or assembled by NPS staff) must be evaluated against the park's approved SOCS. In most cases, archival and manuscript collections are acquired or assembled by a park if they are found useful for reference, exhibition, or resource management. Park staff should avoid skimming records from existing file groups (and thus destroying their integrity) to create assembled collections for reference, unless it is known that the file group is to be destroyed. It is preferable to assemble duplicate materials (sub-official collections) or, in the case of non-official records, to acquire and maintain the entire collection. Staff should be guided by the Records Management Guideline, curators, NPS archivists, and park records managers in these matters.

3. Documentation

Documentation establishing federal ownership and custody of museum objects is required. Documentation facilitates physical and intellectual access to museum objects for purposes of collection management, research, interpretation, exhibit, and loan.

a. Accessioning

The first step in documentation is accessioning, to be completed upon receipt of objects. Accessioning establishes legal ownership and custody (temporary or permanent) and records basic information about an object or group of objects. Each accession transaction is recorded in a bound accession book, which is treated as a legal document. Accessioning also requires the maintenance of a file containing all pertinent documentation about the acquisition of objects (e.g., deeds of gift, collecting permits, receipt of property forms, related correspondence). The accession book and accession file are permanent park records not subject to disposition.

b. Cataloging

The second step in documentation is cataloging, which should be completed soon after the receipt of objects. Cataloging involves gathering and recording information observable from the objects themselves, associated documentation, and research. It is the primary property and location record of museum objects. The museum catalog record provides accountability for and physical and intellectual access to museum objects. Data on each museum object are entered into the NPS Automated National Catalog System (ANCS) or its successor. Electronic copies of the Museum Catalog Record (Form 10-254 or 10-254B) are submitted to the National Catalog.

All paper museum records (e.g., accession book, accession file, catalog records) are kept in a locking, insulated file. Magnetic media (e.g., disks, tapes) that back up ANCS data files and other collection data files are stored in an appropriately rated container (e.g., media safe, media file, mixed media file, media box).

Archival and manuscript collections require additional work, such as surveying, arrangement, and description (finding aid production) beyond basic cataloging. For detailed guidance on managing archival and manuscript collections, see the Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix D.

For detailed guidance in accessioning and cataloging, see the Museum Handbook, Part II. For use of ANCS, see the NPS ANCS User Manual.

4. Research Use of Collections

Under the authority of the park superintendent or center chief, qualified institutions and individuals may conduct research in a museum collection upon written request. The request must include a research proposal detailing the purpose, methods, and expected results of the research. The researcher must agree to abide by the park's rules regarding access to and use of the collection. A copy of any report or publication resulting from a research project must be filed with the park or center. (For guidance on research use of natural history collections, see the Natural Resources Management Guideline [NPS-77], Chapter 5, "Collections.")

Although museum collections should not be used in a consumptive manner, destructive analysis may be undertaken for officially sanctioned research purposes. When the impact is minor (e.g., taking a thread from the tacking surface of a painting for analysis, removing a strand of hair from a mammal specimen for determining the presence of arsenic) or when the object is common (e.g., a potsherd used in a petrographic analysis), approval at the park level is required. When the object is rare or significant, destructive analysis must be justified in writing for review and approval by the regional director.

Park and center archival and manuscript collections will be open to researchers based on written access and use procedures. Researchers must be informed of any restrictions on access to particular collections and of the laws relating to copyright and fair use of collection materials.

5. Interpretive Uses of Collections

Museum collections offer vast possibilities for the use of original materials subject to NPS preservation and protection standards. Exhibits, furnished rooms, and interpretive and educational programs are traditional means of making museum collections available for public education and enjoyment. Motion pictures and photography, World Wide Web and other Internet postings, publications, and reproductions of original materials can extend the benefit of collections to wider audiences and provide indirect access to otherwise generally inaccessible objects. (The Museum Handbook, Part III [draft in progress], will provide guidance on uses of museum collections.)

6. Outgoing Loans

Parks may make outgoing loans of museum objects for purposes of exhibition, exhibit preparation, research, conservation, photography, curation, and storage. Standard outgoing loans may be made to nonprofit educational or cultural institutions (e.g., museums, historical societies, and universities) and to organizations providing services (e.g., conservation treatment and exhibit preparation). Outgoing loans also may be made to NPS repositories or to non-NPS repositories (museums and universities) for curation and storage of museum collections. Loans will not be made to individuals. (The Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapter 5, provides specific guidance on procedures for documenting outgoing loans.)

7. Deaccessioning

Under the authority granted by the Museum Properties Act of 1955, parks may deaccession museum collections through transfers to other NPS units and exchanges. (The Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapter 6, provides guidance on deaccessioning.)


  • Each park has an approved stand-alone scope of collection statement defining the purpose and prescribing the limits and use of its museum collection.

  • Every museum object is accessioned as soon as it is in NPS custody and cataloged promptly thereafter. Paper museum records and ANCS magnetic media are kept in secure, fire-resistant storage.

  • All materials resulting from systematic research projects associated with an accession are housed at the same repository, except when on temporary loan for specific use elsewhere. Within that repository, objects and records composing an accession may be stored or filed separately from related objects and records to the extent required for security, fire protection, enhanced or reduced access, preservation, fiscal control, or exhibition.

  • Each park has consulted with affected Native Americans on any acquisitions that involve human remains and associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony.

  • Archival and manuscript collections are surveyed, appraised, accessioned, cataloged, rehoused, arranged, and described according to procedures and guidelines contained in the Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix D.

  • Archival and manuscript collections are arranged and described by or under the guidance of an archivist in accordance with professional standards and procedures. A preliminary finding aid is produced as described in the Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix D.

  • Museum objects not relevant to a park according to its scope of collection statement are deaccessioned as permitted by current NPS procedures.

  • Archeological objects and natural history specimens systematically collected within a park are deaccessioned only if lost or so deteriorated that they no longer have any scientific value.

  • Objects and archival and manuscript collections in a park's museum collection are made available to qualified researchers who can demonstrate a need to use them. Access is permitted under conditions designed to ensure the security and preservation of the materials, including adequate staff supervision. Copyright is respected in accordance with guidance in the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 2, and Part II, Chapter 2 and Appendix D.

  • Each outgoing loan is documented by an outgoing loan agreement. All loaned museum objects are cataloged unless loaned to NPS repositories for collections management and storage purposes. Conditions for preserving, handling, and shipping and an itemized list of museum objects are included in a loan agreement.

C. Planning

1. Park Planning

To ensure that a park's museum collection is properly documented, protected, preserved, and used, its management requirements need to be considered in the park's planning process. Museum collections management should be addressed in the park's statement for management, outline of planning requirements, general management plan, development concept plan(s), resources management plan, and interpretive prospectus. (For guidance on including collection management issues in park plans see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 1.)

Archeological and scientific research projects in the park must include planning and funding for the curation of collected objects, specimens, and associated records. (For guidance see Director's Order 26, "Projects Must Fund Basic Preservation of Museum Collections They Generate."

2. Collection Management Planning

a. Collection Management Plan

A collection management plan (CMP) provides short-term and long-term guidance to park and center staffs in the management and care of museum objects and archival and manuscript collections. Every park with a museum collection should have a CMP. All archival and manuscript collections should be surveyed and a collection-level durvey description written before or during the CMP, as described in the Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix D. Parks with small collections may require only a brief plan while parks with large, complex collections may require a more extensive plan. CMPs are prepared by teams of NPS curators or by contractors and are approved by the park superintendent. (For detailed guidance see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 3.)

Once a CMP is approved, the park prepares a corrective action plan that is based on its recommendations. The action plan identifies the corrective actions to be taken, specifies priorities and target dates for completion, identifies responsible persons, lists needed resources (e.g., funds, staff, supplies), and indicates any necessary advance steps (e.g., submitting programming documents to identify needed funding).

b. Collection Storage Plan

A collection storage plan (CSP) is a stand-alone document that guides collection storage at a park or center. A CSP may be prepared to solve one or more problems in an existing storage facility, to guide renovation of an existing space into a storage facility, or to guide design of a new storage facility. When appropriate, a recently prepared CSP may be included as part of a CMP, which always addresses museum collections storage needs. In some instances the museum collections storage chapter of a CMP may recommend the subsequent preparation of a detailed CSP, although a CMP's storage chapter is usually sufficient for park planning and development purposes. (For detailed guidance, see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 7.)

c. Collection Condition Survey

A collection condition survey (CCS) is a planning tool rather than a specific plan. Conducted by a professional conservator, it reports the condition of all or part of a museum collection. It creates a baseline reference for future assessment of object deterioration and identifies objects in need of conservation treatment by degree of urgency. It is not to be used as a technical basis for conservation treatment of individual objects. Because of the wide variety of materials (e.g., paper, textiles, wood, metals, ceramics), a park may need more than one CCS. (For detailed guidance, see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 3, and Part II, Appendix D.)

d. Exhibit Plan and Design

An exhibit plan and design (EPD) serves as a guide for the development of exhibits that support the interpretive themes of a park. The final production-ready exhibit plan identifies the museum objects and graphics to be exhibited and provides label text. Detailed design drawings provide specifications on environmental and security needs for objects, special mounts needed to support objects, and techniques in exhibit case construction that facilitate access to museum objects. Park curatorial staff and regional curators must be included in the development and review of EDPs. Native Americans associated with archeological and ethnographic objects will be consulted about their use in exhibits. (The NPS Museum Handbook, Part III [draft in progress] provides guidance on the exhibit plan and design.)

e. Historic Furnishings Report

A historic furnishings report (HFR) provides a history of a structure's use and documents the type and placement of furnishings to a period of interpretive significance. If a decision is made to furnish a historic structure, a detailed plan section lists each recommended item. The HFR provides guidance for the care and maintenance of furnishings that are exhibited in the structure, including specific instructions for the care of newly acquired objects. This information can be incorporated by the park in its preventive conservation program. The HFR also recommends appropriate levels of historic housekeeping for interpretation. (The NPS Museum Handbook, Part III [draft in progress] provides guidance on the HFR.)

f. Relationship to Historic Structures

In managing museum objects, it is important to understand the nature and significance of the structure housing them and the problems that their presence may create. Using a historic structure to house or exhibit museum objects may necessitate modifications to the structure for environmental control and protective systems. Such modifications may impose more wear on the structure than resulted from its original use.

Planning must consider the nature, condition, and preservation needs of both the museum objects and the structure and the effects of the proposed use on each. Alternatives to maintaining the objects in the historic structure should be considered. Proposals for environmental control systems will be based on data from an ongoing environmental monitoring program. A historic structure report is required when envisioned modifications could affect the integrity of the structure.

g. Submissions to Cultural Resources Management Bibliography (CRBIB)

Parks must provide the CRBIB cluster coordinator approved copies of scope of collection statements, collection management plans, museum sections of emergency operation plans, collection condition surveys, collection storage plans, and historic furnishings reports. (See Appendix D.)


  • Plans for park management, development, exhibits, interpretation, and research address the proper documentation, protection, preservation, and use of objects.

  • Each park and center has a collection management plan to guide proper management and care of its museum collection and a separate collection storage plan if necessary.

  • Each park and center has one or more collection condition surveys to detect problems with the condition of museum objects and determine conservation treatment priorities.

  • Proposals for environmental control measures in historic structures are based on data from environmental monitoring for at least one year.

  • Each park ensures that the cataloging and curation of objects, specimens, and associated records recovered from archeological and scientific projects are accomplished.

  • Each park ensures that approved museum plans and reports are entered in the CRBIB.

D. Stewardship

1. Protection of Museum Objects

Museum objects may be threatened by fire, theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and careless acts. A systematic approach to protecting them entails identifying and evaluating threats and risks; conducting and reconciling annual inventories of collections; developing and implementing good operational procedures and practices (e.g., key control, access control, opening and closing procedures); evaluating the physical security of spaces housing collections (with attention to barriers, cases, locks, doors, and windows); installing intrusion detection systems and fire detection and suppression systems appropriate to the nature of collections and the structures housing them; incorporating the special needs of collections in physical security plans, structural fire plans, and emergency operations plans; and ensuring that all incidents involving collections are reported. Emergency operations plans should identify and give protection and recovery priority to the most significant objects in collections. (For guidance on security, fire protection, and emergency planning for museum collections see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapters 9 and 10. In addition, Floodplain Management Guideline [Special Directive 93-4] provides guidance regarding floodplains and the housing of museum collections.)

2. Preservation of Museum Objects

The preservation of museum objects is an ongoing process of preventive conservation, supplemented by conservation treatment when necessary. The primary goal is to preserve objects in as stable a condition as possible.

a. Preventive Conservation

The first level of museum object preservation is preventive conservation. A preventive conservation program focuses on non-interventive actions that can be taken to prevent damage to and minimize deterioration of museum objects. Such actions include monitoring, recording, and controlling environmental agents (e.g., light, relative humidity, temperature, dust, and gaseous pollution); inspecting and recording the condition of museum objects; establishing an integrated pest management program in all spaces that house museum objects; practicing proper techniques and methods in handling, research use, reformatting, documentation, storage, exhibit, housekeeping, and packing and shipping of museum objects; and ensuring that needed information and procedures relevant to museum objects are incorporated in the park's emergency operations plan. The effectiveness of a park's ongoing program for the care and maintenance of museum objects is based on identifying specific tasks and appropriate procedures for their accomplishment, establishing schedules and costs, and coordinating staff responsibilities. An ongoing preventive conservation program is the most effective means of preserving museum objects and will minimize the need for conservation treatments. (For guidance on preventive conservation, see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapters 3 through 7, Chapter 13 [draft in progress], and Appendixes I through P, and Part II, Appendix D.)

b. Conservation Treatment

Conservation treatment employs methods and techniques that are usually interventive in varying degrees to preserve the condition or appearance of a museum object. The two broad categories of conservation treatments are stabilization and restoration. Stabilization treatments are applied to museum objects to increase their stability or durability when preventive conservation actions are insufficient to reduce the rate of deterioration or when deterioration has rendered them so fragile as to be in danger under any circumstances. Restoration treatments may be required when museum objects are placed on exhibit or are needed for research purposes. Restoration is an attempt to bring museum objects closer to their original or other previous appearance by removing additions not considered historically important, replacing missing parts, renewing finishes, and/or concealing damage. As prescribed in the NPS Management Policies, "intervention will be minimized to reduce the possibility of compromising the object's integrity." Conservation treatments are performed by conservators following the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. To initiate conservation treatment services, a park must prepare and submit an Object Treatment Request (Form 10-252). (For detailed guidance on the standards and procedures for object conservation treatment, see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 8 and Appendix D.)

3. Accounting for Museum Objects

a. Annual Physical Inventory

In accordance with NPS property regulations, each park will conduct an annual inventory of museum property. This requires (1) a 100 percent inventory of all controlled museum property (all objects valued at $1,000 or more, all firearms, all objects accessioned as incoming loans, and all objects especially vulnerable to theft, loss, or damage), (2) a random sample inventory of all cataloged museum property, and (3) an inventory of uncataloged museum property by a random sample of accessions. (For instructions, see the Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapter 4, and the ANCS User Manual, Appendix M.)

b. Collections Management Report

The Collections Management Report (Form 10-94) provides important information about the status (e.g., documentation, preservation, and use) of each park's and center's museum collection. It is completed and submitted by the park superintendent or center manager at the end of each fiscal year. The reports identify deficiencies that need to be addressed and help justify staffing and funding requests for museum collections management. The Museum Management Program uses the data received from the parks and regions to prepare an annual Service-wide report. (For instructions, see the Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapter 4.)

c. Assessment of Conditions

Director's Order 24, "Standards for NPS Museum Collections Management," requires that every park use the Checklist for Preservation and Protection of Museum Collections to assess conditions against NPS standards and requirements for museum collections storage, exhibits, museum environment, security, fire protection, housekeeping, and museum collections planning. This self-assessment is completed every four years and forwarded to the Museum Management Program. (See the Museum Handbook, Part I, Appendix F, and the ANCS User Manual, Appendix O.) Archival collections also require a processing plan statement (see the Museum Handbook, Part II, Appendix D).

4. Consumptive Use of Museum Objects

A primary consideration in all uses of museum objects is the preservation of each object and the collection as a whole. Use that may damage or hasten the deterioration of objects should be undertaken only after careful review and approval.

Controlled use of museum objects is authorized as long as they are not subjected to unacceptable possibilities of wear, breakage, theft, or deterioration. The following points highlight the requirements and considerations when using museum objects.

(a) NPS programs using museum objects benefit the public by fostering an understanding and appreciation of the values of cultural and natural heritage.

(b) The museum collection is used in a beneficial and, as applicable, non-consumptive manner.

(c) Destructive analysis is a legitimate use of museum collections for approved research purposes when the impact is minor or when the object is common, in which case approval by the superintendent is required. If an object is rare or significant, a request for destructive analysis should be reviewed by the support office staff curator and may be approved only by the regional director, as elaborated below.

(d) In cases where use of a museum object would expose it to unacceptable wear, deterioration, destruction, or the possibility of breakage, loss, or theft, an accurate reproduction must be used, if appropriate. The regional director may exempt individual objects from this requirement if the park superintendent has submitted a justification statement demonstrating (1) that the program in which the object is to be used is for the benefit of the public and will enhance understanding and appreciation of cultural or natural heritage or contribute significantly to heritage preservation or protection, and (2) that reproductions of the original or a similar object will not accomplish the intended purpose. The statement must contain the following:

(1) Description of the program and proposed use of the object.

(2) Description of the object to be used and a copy of its catalog card.

(3) Explanation of how the activity is essential to park management needs.

(4) Discussion of alternatives that could achieve the same or a similar purpose.

(5) Explanation of why it is not feasible to use reproductions of the exact museum object or similar objects.

(6) Measures proposed to mitigate the loss or damage that might occur. (For example, a carriage or wagon approved for use in parades could be included in a park's cyclic maintenance program.)

(7) Discussion of how the park will, if necessary, explain to the public why the NPS is using museum objects in a potentially consumptive manner.

(e) The regional director will grant no exemption for use that might lead to loss or deterioration of museum objects that are directly connected with or prime survivors from the park's historic periods, events, or personalities; or are type specimens or one-of-a-kind natural history specimens; or are from systematic archeological collections, have known archeological site provenance, or have scientific value that has not been extracted and documented; or remain of scientific interest. The justification statement must certify that the objects requested for exemption do not meet the above criteria. If this certification cannot be provided, an exemption may be granted only by the director.

(f) No exemption will be granted for use of museum objects where such use may lead to loss or destruction of human remains, associated or unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony as defined by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, unless such use is approved by the affiliated cultural group in addition to the regional director or director as described in (d) and (e). Management Polices (7:5) specifically prohibits exhibition of skeletal or mummified human remains or photos or replicas of them.

(g) An exemption may be granted for scientific analysis that will damage, deteriorate, or destroy all or portions of any museum object, except natural history type specimens, if that analysis is based on a professional research design that clearly documents the scientific need for the use of such techniques.

(h) Reproductions used in place of original museum objects must be indelibly marked as such if retained in the museum. They are managed and accounted for as required in the Museum Handbook, Part II, Chapters 3 and 4.

(i) The requirement to request an exemption for use of original objects applies only to objects that are in NPS ownership. In granting permits to outside groups (e.g., Civil War reenactors) who will be using other original or reproduction objects on park premises, the superintendent must be satisfied that such use is consistent with the resource preservation and interpretive values of the park.

Black Powder Storage, Handling and Transportation Standards apply to all uses of firearms in the park, whether by NPS personnel or outside groups and whether objects are in NPS or other custody. NPS personnel will use only reproduction weapons in firing demonstrations. No waivers for use of original museum firearms will be granted.

5. Historic Furnishings

Historic furnishings are groups of objects (such as furniture, paintings, other decorative and utilitarian objects, books, wall and floor coverings) assembled according to a documented report that recreate historic interior spaces. In some cases one furnished room may be more evocative of an event or person than an entire furnished structure. In other cases effective interpretation may require the furnishing of multiple structures, both commercial and residential. In every case, furnishing must be as accurate as possible and must directly serve park interpretive objectives. The following general criteria apply:

(a) Original furnishings present in their original arrangement will not be moved or replaced unless required for their protection or preservation, or unless the structure is designated for another use in an approved park plan. Before movement or replacement, the furnishings and their arrangement must be fully documented.

(b) A structure may be refurnished, in whole or part, if it is significantly related to a primary park theme, if refurnishing is determined to be the best way to interpret that theme to the public, and if there is sufficient evidence of the design and placement of the original furnishings to refurnish with minimal conjecture.

(c) To ensure accurate recreations of historic furnishings, reproductions will be based on existing prototypes.

6. Staffing and Funding

A park with a museum collection should assign responsibility for its day-to-day management to a staff member. This responsibility should be identified in the person's position description and critical elements of performance standards. Curatorial staff must adhere to the Code of Ethics for Curators adopted by the American Association of Museums. Archival staff and curatorial staff responsible for archival and manuscript collections must adhere to the Code of Ethics for Archivists adopted by the Society of American Archivists. (For guidance see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapter 1 and Appendix C.)

Funding for a park's curatorial program can come from Park Operations, the Cultural Resources Preservation Fund, Cultural Resources Cyclic Maintenance, the Exhibit Repair and Rehabilitation Program, and other sources. The program should have an adequate base. (For guidance see the Museum Handbook, Part I, Chapters 1 and 12.)


  • Each park and center has identified threats to the security and protection of its museum collection and has taken appropriate measures to deal with them, including emergency planning.

  • Each park and center has implemented a preventive conservation program whereby museum objects are exhibited, handled, and stored with sensitivity to their specific environmental needs and vulnerabilities and are regularly inspected for evidence of deterioration.

  • Preservation and use of museum objects accords with Director's Order 24, "Standards for NPS Museum Collections Management"; the Museum Handbook, Part I; and National Archives and Records Administration standards.

  • Conservation treatment required to stabilize or restore museum objects entails the least intervention necessary to satisfy treatment goals.

  • Inventories of museum objects and status reports on collections are completed and submitted in accordance with current NPS museum property procedures and other administrative requirements.

  • Any use of museum objects likely to damage them or hasten their deterioration is undertaken only after careful review and approval.



  • A scope of collection statement is prepared, approved, and implemented.

  • Affected Native Americans are consulted regarding each acquisition that involves Native American human remains, associated or unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony.

  • All objects are accessioned and cataloged. Archival and manuscript collections are surveyed, appraised, accessioned, cataloged, rehoused, arranged, and described, and finding aids are produced.

  • Furnishings in historic structures are documented in a historic furnishings report.


  • Park plans address the management of museum collections and prescribe needed corrective measures.

  • Research and development projects include plans and funds for the curation of collected objects and specimens.

  • A collection management plan, including an archival processing plan and documentation strategy statement, is prepared, approved, and implemented.

  • Planning for the exhibit or storage of objects in historic structures considers the preservation requirements of both objects and structures.


  • Threats to the park's museum collection are identified, dealt with through appropriate security and protective measures, and addressed in structural fire and emergency operations plans.

  • A preventive conservation program is developed and implemented.

  • The annual physical inventory is completed and submitted according to established procedures.

  • Consumptive use of objects receives prior approval as prescribed.

  • Objects housed in reposit-ories/institutions outside the park are preserved, protected, and documented according to NPS standards and procedures.

  • The checklist for preservation and protection of museum collections is completed every four years and correction of deficiencies is programmed and updated as needed.

  • The collection management report is completed annually, according to instructions.

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