Collection Management Policies - Policy on Access and Use of the Collections

Reviewed September 2010
Next Review September 2015

1.  INTRODUCTION

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales holds collections in trust for the people of Wales. Accordingly, we are obliged to make them accessible to all and facilitate their use by both present and future generations. Our 2005 Vision document, Creating the Future Together, has reiterated our commitment to making the collections ever-more relevant and accessible. However, enhancing access and use must be balanced against the conservation, care, and security of the collections, all of which are designed to ensure their long-term survival.

In the past collections were created largely for their own sake, but today we recognise that collections are acquired for the knowledge they encapsulate as well as any aesthetic value. Providing access to collections and knowledge and making them available for research, education, exhibition, loan and photography is a fundamental duty of every museum.

2.  AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

It is our policy to make the collections accessible to all within the reasonable constraints of resources, conservation and security, as outlined in two documents from the Museum Association, namely the Ethical Guidelines on Access and the Code of Ethics for Museums. This policy statement aims to indicate the manner by which this will be achieved, and forms the basis of our objective to provide the greatest opportunity for access to and use of our collections.

3.  DEFINITIONS

Access to collections involves providing physical proximity to objects and intellectual use of the information and knowledge relating to them.
3.1  Physical access is provided through display, temporary exhibitions, loans, and access to study and reference collections. Access is available subject to our criteria for care and management of collections being satisfied and in accordance with the requirements detailed in our Policy on the Care of the Collections, through the loan of objects or specimens (detailed in our Policy on Loans ) and subject to compliance with relevant Health & Safety legislation.

3.2  Intellectual access involves making available information about objects and specimens through exhibitions, catalogues and other publications in paper and/or electronic formats, and photographic media, and access to supplementary information about the collections (see Policy on the Documentation of the Collections).

4.  POLICY

In delivering our policy on access to and use of our collections, we will:

  • encourage members of all sectors of the community to access and use specimens, objects or information in the collections;
  • commit to providing longer-term and temporary exhibitions of specimens and objects in the collections;
  • identify objects or specimens from amongst the collections that can be handled unsupervised. We will also seek to acquire objects or specimens for this purpose (see Policy on the Acquisition and Disposal of the Collections);
  • offer physical and/or intellectual access to collections through outreach programmes, events (including commercial hire), digital media activities, commercial filming and lectures.  

5.  MAXIMISING ACCESS

In order to maximise access we will:

  • advertise widely exhibitions in publicity material, on our website, and in the local and national press and other media;
  • offer facilities for the study and use of collections. These facilities are open to all, within the normal constraints on access and use and subject to collection–specific collection handling guidelines;
  • make no discrimination regarding access on the basis of physical, sensory or intellectual ability, cultural origin, age or social status, and will seek to widen general access and social inclusion.
  • through our Partnership schemes, enable local museums and galleries throughout Wales to display items from the national collections.
  • encourage other institutions and scholars to borrow items from the collections (see Policy on Loans).
  • make spaces that display our collections available for commercial use (functions, filming) as long as this does not create an ethical position contrary to our own
  • develop on-line catalogues to our natural history collections providing global access to bioinformatics and geoinformatics.

6.  LIMITATIONS

6.1  Access and use must be balanced against the need for conservation, care and security of, or any ethical sensitivity to, the objects or specimens to ensure their long-term survival. Accordingly, we may refuse any request for access that might jeopardise the long-term future of any objects or specimens. We will offer full reasons for a refusal if that is our decision. However, the opportunity to examine a photograph or replica of the objects or specimens concerned will be granted whenever reasonably possible.

6.2  In some cases, we will restrict access to objects or specimens of particularly high value, fragility or sensitivity (for instance, type specimens or human remains) to students, scholars and others with a demonstrable need to see the material.

6.3  We may limit access to particular parts of the collections (e.g. radioactive specimens) by the need to comply with Health & Safety legislation.

6.4  Copying or reproduction of any Museum information or materials will be subject to compliance with the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003.

6.5  We will not grant access to collections of human remains or objects of specific cultural significance when there is reason to suspect that there is intention to trivialise or sensationalise the specimens or if the request fails to meet any access requirement restrictions.

6.6  We will deal with requests for collection-related information, following the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulation 2004 and any other relevant legislation. It may sometimes be necessary for us to restrict or to keep confidential information regarding the acquisition of a specimen or object (for instance, in order to protect vulnerable sites or in order to respect an individual's request for confidentiality).

We will make available notes resulting from research carried out by or on our behalf of within defined periods, (this will not normally be longer than three years after completion of the active collection of specimens/data, regardless of whether or not the work is published), and in accordance with any relevant information legislation.

6.7  We may restrict access as a result of conditions of donation or loan, and we shall advise enquirers of this.

7.  SENSITIVE COLLECTIONS

Access to sensitive collections, in particular those containing human remains or material required for DNA-based studies (plant or animal), will be subject to additional conditions of use.

Our Policy on the use of specimens in DNA-based studies at Appendix 1 details the terms and conditions associated with access and use of material in DNA-based studies.

We are bound by the Human Tissue Act 2004 and guidance issued by the Human Tissue Authority associated with access and public display of human tissue (see Policy on Human Remains)

8.  CHARGES

Our policy on charging for access to and the use of the collections is as follows:

  • access to regular or long term displays is provided free of charge;
  • access to special temporary exhibitions, educational facilities and special events may be subject to charges being levied in accordance with current Museum policy;
  • access to or loans from the study and reference collections is normally free, unless this is required for commercial purposes (for example filming or photography). In such circumstances the Museum reserves the right to levy a fee;
  • loans for temporary exhibition purposes will be expected to cover costs and may be subject to charges. For further details see our Policy on Loans;
  • provision of information about collections (for example photographs) may also be subject to charges. Copies of information or Museum materials, where permissible by copyright regulations will be subject to appropriate charges. Complex and time consuming requests for information under the Freedom of Information procedure will be subject to charges according to the fee-structure approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
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