Collection Management Policy
Collection Management Policy

Written for ANTH 560- Museum Curation, Ball State University
Mission Statement

The Katharine E. Melvin Museum (KEMM) has a distinct mission: to collect, preserve and interpret for the public, materials and artifacts which best represent the functional, culinary, and social aspects of the Native American kitchen environment. This includes food preparation and agricultural aspects, and the social and ceremonial functions related to these factors. The museum is named for Katharine E. Melvin (1908-1979), a cultural anthropologist who studied harvest ceremonials and the importance of subsistence agriculture for the Native American groups in the Southwestern United States. Dr. Melvin was directly involved in this institution from its inception in 1952, and served as the museum director from 1956 until 1975.

The Native American groups represented at this institution are made up of tribes currently or historically situated in the American Southwest; including, but not limited to the present day cultures of the: the Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Yaqui, Pima, Papago, and Pueblo.

Scope of Collections

The KEMM divides its collections into four main areas which cover the period in Native American history before contact, (1200 B.C. to 1500 A.D.) with Western culture. This includes prehistoric cultural groups consisting of the Anasazi, Hohokam, Tohono 'O'odham, and the Mogollon, to Post-Contact times, (post 1500) in the geographical area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.
These four categories of collections, although distinct from one another, together make up a good portion of what KEMM feels to be a complete and rounded representation of the Native American kitchen environment and its many facets. This collection will be used for ongoing, permanent and limited, special exhibits.

The last component to the museum's collection is to maintain, during the months of April to October, a living Native American garden. This department will be under the direction and curatorial care of the botanical collections manager. The garden will include plants traditionally and historically harvested by Native peoples and will be grown according to native customs and practices. The project will be undertaken each year in consultation with members from nearby tribal communities that have knowledge and expertise in this area. The museum will use this garden for special living history programs that will involve the public in 'hands on' planting and harvesting activities. The bounty from the harvest each year will be used towards the annual "Fall Feast"; an event open to the participating public.

Collection Strategies

It is the aim of the KEMM to acquire artifacts and materials that reveal the rich and varied traditions of Native American groups pertaining to food production, preparation, and agriculture. In the case of the botanical/agricultural collections, it is appropriate for the KEMM to acquire specimens from areas outside of the Southwestern United States. These materials will not be used for display purposes but by museum staff, for identification and comparison purposes pertaining to the artifacts and materials in the museum's permanent collection.

The museum may also acquire materials to be duplicated for the purpose of 'hands on' use in the Native American garden. These duplicated materials will be used in the garden in place of authentic artifacts that will be kept on display or in proper storage.

Due to museum budget and expenses, the majority of incoming acquisitions should be from field collections and donations. New items will also be brought into the KEMM by the use of loans from accredited, lending institutions. The museum will make every effort to acquire exceptional and/or rare artifacts and materials that can be purchased that fit the mission of the institution that would benefit both the KEMM and the public it serves.

Care of the Collections

One of the primary goals of the KEMM is to preserve and protect all artifacts and materials in the museum's care. Staff members have a responsibility to uphold this regulation at all times. All artifacts and materials in the care of the museum, whether on display or in storage, should be protected against detrimental elements such as fire, natural disasters, vandalism, and theft. Collections staff working in the indoor and the outdoor components of the KEMM should be aware of this responsibility at all times. In the case of such an emergency, the proper steps should be taken as they are laid out in the KEMM document entitled "Emergency Procedures". In the case of such an emergency, the museum director should be notified as soon as possible.

The responsibility of unpacking and shipping artifacts arriving and leaving the museum collection falls to the registrar, who must also make proper record of such transactions. In addition, a museum item should be able to be accounted for at all times. The location of each item should be clearly marked in its accession file and not moved to another location until a file update is made.


The KEMM will secure, at all times, a full time conservator whose sole job and responsibility will be to monitor the condition of artifacts and materials in the museum's collection and guarantee their preservation and conservation. This includes maintaining proper storage environments, mending and restoring artifacts and materials, and overseeing periodic "condition surveys" of artifacts in storage. A condition survey entails examining objects in an orderly and systematic method, recording its condition, and comparing its present state to that described in its accession file -- any deterioration should be noted and corrected, if possible. It is also the duty of the conservator to evaluate an items capacity for travel as it applies to the case of incoming and outgoing loans. The KEMM seeks to preserve each artifact to the best of the institution's ability. If an artifact develops preservational needs that the KEMM cannot fufill to the extent that these needs make it impossible for the KEMM to provide adequate upkeep for the artifact, it is the policy of this museum to seek deaccession of the object in question.


Equal to the goal of preservation is the goal of interpretation. It is the policy of the KEMM to further the interpretation of artifacts owned by or in the care of the museum by making access available, when appropriate, to scholars, students, and interested individuals, with adequate identification, for further research of the artifacts in the museums possession. The museum retains the right to deny access to any individual or group seeking access that the museum staff deems inappropriate. All requests for special access should be approved by the appropriate collections manager. The KEMM will not provide information or access to any archaeological sites, excavated or unexcavated, to a member of the general public.

Sales Pertaining to the Museum's Collection

In the case that an item in the museum's permanent collection is deaccessioned, it may be sold, at a public auction held by the KEMM. At the time that the KEMM feels it necessary, it will hold such an auction for the sole purpose of disposing of deaccessioned artifacts and materials. All items sold at such an auction will be done so with the consideration of the following criteria:
In the event a deaccessioned item is sold, money from this sale may be used only for the following:

The KEMM does not posses a broad insurance policy covering all artifacts and materials in the the museum's permanent collection. In the case of incomming loans, the KEMM will provide adequate insurance if the item is not insured by the lending institution. Outgoing loans will be insured by the KEMM if the recieving institution does not provide insurance for incoming loans. In the place of an insurance plan that covers all items in the KEMM's collection, great care will be placed in the responsibilities of proper shipping, conservatory care, security, and storage of the museum's collection.


It is the aim of the KEMM to acquire artifacts and materials that reveal the rich and varied traditions of the Native American groups in the Southwestern United States which pertain to food preparation, Native American agriculture, and ceremonials pertaining to these areas.

It is the policy of the KEMM to accept items into the permanent collection obtained by the following means: purchases, gifts, exchanges, or any other transactions deemed acceptable by the museum's governing board. The Collections Department of the museum will handle and oversee all transactions involving acquisition into the museum's collection. All transactions will be carried out in an ethical, legal, and professional manner. Items will be considered for acquisition when if they meet one of the following requirements:
Accession Procedures

The following procedures should be followed after artifacts and materials are accessioned into the KEMM's collection:

In the matter of deaccessions, the KEMM takes its role as a public institution and its dedication to keep its collections accessible and beneficial to the public very seriously. For that reason, the KEMM may occasionally find it necessary to deaccession an item if that item no longer fits the mission of the museum. The deaccession process is to be carried out in an ethical and professional manner and will be proposed by the Collections Department and must be approved by the museum board. Deaccession may be proposed if an item meets one of the following:
Deaccession Procedures

At the time that the deaccession is approved, the following procedures should be followed: the deaccession will be noted in the accession file by the registrar, and then, the whole file, will be moved to a separate deaccession file cabinet. The method of disposal must be marked in the file. After the deaccession has been noted in the item's file and properly relocated, the KEMM will dispose of the item in one of the following ways:

The KEMM will, on a regular basis, be involved with both incoming and outgoing loans. All incoming and outgoing loans must be approved by the registrar, and in cases that deem exceptional or unusual, the governing board must be notified and give their approval; such as in the case of restrictions placed on an item, etc. It is the responsibility of the registrar to:
Incoming Loans

Incoming loans must adhere to the above considerations, as well as:
Outgoing Loans

In addition to the general loan stipulations, outgoing loans must adhere to the following:

It is the responsibility of the KEMM to retain, at all times, complete and up to date records on all objects in the museums care. The KEMM's records, as they pertain to artifacts and materials in the museum's collection, will be divided into two subheadings: registration and cutorial. The registration records will include documentation on the item's location, condition, and care. The cutorial records will include information on the item's cultural and scientific background, any bibliographic material or research, and possible photographic documentation.

Each item will have its own accession number that will be assigned after the item is add to the museums collection. Items that are on loan will be assigned a temporary accession number that will allow the item to be accounted and easily located.


The KEMM, in order to keep accurate records and maintain up to date information on all objects in the museum collection, the KEMM will implement periodic inventories. The collections department may implement spot-check inventories when they are deemed necessary. The results from any and all inventories completed, including condition surveys implemented by the conservator, will be placed in the care of the registrar and be filed for future reference.


The KEMM employs a code of ethics that all museum employees must adhere to and that reflects the museum's responsibility as a carrier of the public trust. Ideally, all ethics are formulated with utopian situations in mind, but these ethics are expected to be followed to the best of each staff member's ability:

The KEMM will review this document at any time that a change or addition to this document is appropriate or necessary. Museum staff may introduce such actions, but the decision to revise this document must be put forth by the museum director to the museum board. If the museum board approves any changes or additions to this document, those changes and or additions will be implemented. This document will also be reviewed every two years so that changes may be introduced at that specified time as well.
Back to my page.