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Museums glossary and contacts


Accreditation Standard – The Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK. Also known as Museum Accreditation. 

Acquisition – Formal procedure agreeing to add an item into the museum collection. 

Archive – A place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest. 

Audience – All those interested in visiting your museum or taking part in its activities. Also referred to as user or visitor. 

Business Plan – A formal statement of your goals and the activities and resources needed to reach them. Also known as Forward Plan, Corporate Plan or Strategic Plan. 

Collections Management – Activities to ensure collections are secure, well cared for and all accompanying information about individual artefacts remains linked to them. 

Community – Within the tool kit we use this to mean a group of people who live in the same geographical area or a group of people with shared interests. 

Conservation – This can refer to general care of collections – making sure objects are clean and stable – this is also known as preventive conservation. It also refers to actions taken by conservators to repair damaged items – also referred to as remedial conservation. 

Digitisation – The process of making an electronic copy of a document or photograph, for example by scanning. 

Documentation – The process of recording information about items in your collection, including what your objects are, where they came from and how and where they are stored. 

Gallery – A non-commercial gallery displays works of art in the same way that a museum displays artefacts and specimens. Often the terms ‘museum’ and ‘gallery’ are used interchangeably. For the purposes of the Toolkit, we have used ‘museum’ to refer to a museum or gallery. 

Governing Body – The group of people who are responsible for the effectiveness and accountability of your organisation. If you are a charity these people may be called trustees or board of directors. 

Governing instrument – The legal document that establishes your organisation, defines your purpose and how you will operate. For example Memorandum of Understanding and Articles of Association. 

Heritage organisation – An organisation with an interest in preserving and promoting the natural or cultural environment, history, customs and traditions of a place. In practice some museums call themselves heritage centres and vice versa. 

Museum – An institution that cares for a collection of artefacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through permanent or temporary exhibitions. 

Museum Mentor – Qualified museum professional who volunteers to support small or volunteer-led museums, usually in their local area, in Museum Accreditation. 

Organisation – We have used this as a broad description for your group; in practice it could mean a museum, charity, company or unincorporated association – or a combination of these. 

Organisational health – The Accreditation standard expects museums to be responsible, responsive and resilient and will look at all aspects of how your business is constituted and run. 

Single Outcome Agreement – An agreement between the Scottish Government and each council, which sets out how each will work towards improving national outcomes for local people in a way that reflects local circumstances and priorities. 

Stakeholder – Anyone who has an interest or concern in your museum. It includes your users, staff, volunteers, trustees, funders and wider communities. 

Surplus – Once running costs are covered, any additional income is a surplus. Running a museum is a business, even though any surplus will be reinvested in the business and not be taken out as profit. 

User – Anyone who visits your museum or website or who takes part in any of your activities. 

Networks and organisations 

The museum sector has a strong ethos of collaboration and cooperation. We’ve selected a range of local, national and international organisations we think you will find useful. Some of these require registration or membership to benefit from their full offer. 

Local forums 

Seek out some of the many local or subject-based forums that provide advice and support. 

At Museums and Heritage Highland, for example, thirty museums work together to sustain, develop and promote their museums. Similar networks exist all over Scotland. 

Some local authorities also have dedicated staff who support local museums. The best place to find out more is to contact your neighbouring museums. Discover other organisations in your area by exploring our map of Scottish museums and galleries.