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Managing Natural Science Collections: A Guide to Strategy, Planning and Resourcing

What is special about natural science collections?The changing landscapeChallenges of natural science collectionsThe scope of this bookWhy are we writing this book?What kind of collections and associated work do we address in this book?A summary of contents of this bookOur legacyReferenceNatural science collections – their place in societyIntroductionWhat are the origins of your collections: who acquired them and why?Why are your collections an asset and not a burden to society?Why so many of the same thing?The importance of demonstrating value and justifying spendingThe value of collections to societyUses of natural science collectionsWhat are these new uses of collections?Tracking changeEpidemiologySpecies discoveryHistorical researchBalancing the booksDo potential users know the value of your collections and how can you engage them?How do we know how our collections are being used and what are the outcomes of this use?How can you encourage new users?Crossing the boundaries and forming partnershipsUsing information on value in strategic planningCan we predict the future needs of our users?How can you encourage financial or political support for your collections?SummaryNotesReferencesFurther readingAppendix 2.1: Broadening the user baseStrategy and managementIntroductionWhat is a collections strategy and how will it help me?Benefits of strategic plansHow does strategic planning relate to the purpose, values and policies of my museum, department or project?What is an intellectual framework for collections?What is the desired state of the collection?Using assessment data to develop a strategic planHow can I get data on the current state of my collection to help with planning?Types of assessmentsSelf-assessment toolsDrilling down in detailPeer-review assessmentsWhat is a typical assessment process?Schema and definitions – use a standard: issues with creation of new schemaWhat makes a good assessment?Managing forests not trees – selecting units of analysisThe tyranny of numbersWhat makes a good strategic plan?Clarify purpose of institution and intellectual framework for collectionValidate the desired state and goal you are pursuingOrganise your projectGather dataVet, interpret and visualise your dataDeveloping recommendationsDevelop an action planRecommendation: Replace all cabinets that have warped doors.How can I make the planning process easier?Can you group collections to make planning simpler?RACI approach to communicationWorking with stakeholdersHow can my team think and act strategically?Systems and processes, not heroismHow can I prioritise actions in my plan?How to decide between spending scarce resources on similarly needy collections?Assessments of value for prioritisation purposes (not valuation)Prioritisation and managementAre there templates that I can use to organise my actions?How can I know that I am meeting my collections objectives in the longer term?How can performance indicators help?What makes a good performance indicator?What risks are associated with using performance indicators?MeasurementBehaviouralConceptualWhat strategic questions are others considering?SummaryReferencesFurther readingAppendix 3.1: SYNTHESYS Collections Self-Assessment ToolAppendix 3.2: Example of a hierarchical schema for a preventive conservation strategyAppendix 3.3: An example of an action plan for a legal documentation projectGovernance, legal aspects and policy relating to strategic management of natural science collectionsIntroductionHow is governance used in collections organisations?The hierarchical nature of governanceWhich is the most rigorous: laws or ethics?What are the risks associated with governance and how can you manage them?Sample areas of legal concernOwnership or rights regarding use (access and benefit sharing, copyright, open access data)Shipping/collections transit regulationsPrior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT)Hazards inherent in specimens or resulting from materials applied to specimensHow is policy distinct from law, regulation and procedures?How can I use the power of policy and governance to minimise risks and help me achieve my goals?Where policy can help protect you and your collections from unwanted actionIllegal acquisitionOut of scope acquisitionUse of hazardous chemicalsUntimely processing that hides problemsWhere policy can support or encourage actions that you wantAcknowledgement of hazardous materials leads to improved warning signage/notificationsPolicy statements about accountability lead to regular shelf-checks and other inventoriesAcknowledgement about source country rights leads to improved information managementAcknowledgement about staff safety leads to compulsory field safety courses and budgeting for emergency responseHow can policy help on a day-to-day basis?Who can do what?Is it possible to change a governance framework?SummaryReferencesFurther readingStaff resourcesIntroductionHow do organisations structure their workforce and how can this affect management of collections?Strengths and weaknesses of the different modelsHow can staff structure facilitate good collections management?What if the structure is not working?How can I identify the skills, knowledge and behaviours (competencies) available in my team?How can I match competencies to collections objectives and address any that are missing?Matching competencies to organisational needsAre all competencies equal and are they all needed?Examples of application of the frameworkUsing competencies to build jobs and teamsHow can we address any missing skills, knowledge or behaviours?Strengths and weaknesses of frameworksStrengthsWeaknesses and areas for improvementAddressing weaknessesSuccession planning: How can I capture and retain knowledge and experience of staff for the future?SummaryNoteReferencesFurther readingAppendix 5.1: Simplified competency frameworkAcquisition and deaccessionIntroductionWhy should we acquire and deaccession objects and collections?How can collections be acquired?ExpeditionsDonations and bequestsSales and auctionsTransfer or exchangeOrphaned collectionsWhat criteria do you have to take into account to acquire or deaccession objects or collections?How can you deaccession objects or collections acceptably?What about the ethics of collecting?Are there alternatives if deaccession is not an option?Collection storage and management as a business modelUpdating collections dataHow should I communicate deaccessioning to staff, collectors, donors and the public?SummaryReferencesFurther readingVirtual collectionsIntroductionWhy should you digitise your collections?The new dimension: the history of mass digitisationHow do you create a digitisation strategy and plan?Strategic approaches in a rapidly changing worldThe digitisation processSustainability and collaborationCultureThe right staffWhat should be digitised, how do you prioritise and who should do it?Which standards, software and hardware should you use?Common principles on digital dataOpen accessHow much does it cost?Crowd-sourcing as an exampleWhat digital initiatives exist around the globe?What are the risks?What is the future for digitisation?SummaryReferencesFurther readingAccess to collectionsIntroductionWhat is access to collections?Access versus use – a brief explanationWhat are the restrictions on access and who is responsible for allowing access?Valid reasons to restrict, withdraw or deny access to your collectionsWhat are the principles for physical access to collections?General principles of physical accessPrinciples of visits to the collectionPrinciples of loansPrinciples of destructive samplingWhat do we expect from users?What are the principles for digital access to collections?What do we expect from users?What are the benefits and how can we measure them?How can we measure benefits from the use of collections?What are the costs of access and how can they be reduced?What are the “right” decisions to make on access?What are the major barriers to access and can you overcome them?Barriers to accessStrategies to overcome barriersWhat will access look like in the future and how can we be prepared?Digital transformationSummaryFurther readingExamples of policies: visits, loans, destructive samplingAppendix 8.1: Principles for research loans between natural history collectionsAppendix 8.2: Principles for access by personal visit to natural history collectionsAppendix 8.3: Common principles on digital data produced by external users of natural history collectionsAsking the right questions – putting it all into practiceIntroductionScenariosScenario A: molecular collectionScenario B: digital collectionScenario C: cultural collectionQuestionsGetting an overviewYour role, vision and objectivesUnderstanding the strategic frameworkYour collectionStatus, assessment and analysesUsers, stakeholders and value of collectionsAccess to collectionsCollection developmentProject planningHuman resourcesBudget and fund raisingPerformance indicators, risks and controllingYour situation and your questionsYour situation and your challengesWhich questions are missing?A few final wordsGlossary

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