A museum has to care for the objects in its collection to the best of its ability. The concept collections management emerged in the 1960s, when accountability for collections became a strong incentive for museums to develop modern collections management practices. In the process of establishing accountability (the effective implementation of practices to ensure adherence to collections policies on the accessioning, care and disposal of objects in a museum collection) many museums encountered problems such as the lack of access to detailed information about the objects in collections, a proliferation of accession numbers and inadequate location control. These problems were also encountered at the National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria. This research reveals the way in which the historical, anthropological and archaeological collections at the Transvaal Museum, predecessor of the National Cultural History Museum were managed from 1913 to 1964. This period was chosen for the following reasons: -- J W B Gunning, the director of the Transvaal Museum, was succeeded by H G Breijer in 1913. The year 1913 is thus a clear starting point for research and a new beginning, a watershed, at the Museum. -- The year 1964 marked the inception of an autonomous museum, the National Cultural History and Open-Air Museum, and the discontinuance of responsibility, after a period of 60 years, for the anthropology, archaeology and history collections at the Transvaal Museum. The development of the Transvaal Museum as a natural history and a history museum, is traced. In 1953, for the first time, a trained professional officer was appointed for the history division at the Museum. After 1953 there was an increased awareness (from a professional point of view) that historical, anthropological and archaeological collections require specialized curatorial care. Modern collections management principles, although they were not called by this name, featured effectively in the handling of the historical collection in particular, for the first time in more than 50 years. Aspects such as departmental organization, the staff, expansion of collections, policies, documentation and conservation are investigated. An evaluation of the factors that played a decisive role in collections management practices for the historical, anthropological and archaeological collections shows that a combination of aspects has to be considered in order to understand the practices that were followed and the changes that were made.
Thesis (DPhil (Museology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.