Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies

Kim Jovinelli

“…’the collections’ are an immensely complex body of evidence…This accumulation of material and meaning must be translated into practical museum policies if it is to be kept from disintegration, and these are what we call collection management policies.” Pearce (1992) quoted in Simmons (2006)

As key resources go, Things Great and Small by John E. Simmons has been one of the most important resources for my thesis on collections policy. This has become the most reliable and quotable book that highlights different types of policy and proper creation of collection related materials. It is, in my opinion, a perfect resource for boards, but it is long and a bit wordy.

I believe that Historical Societies Boards, the focus of my thesis, could benefit from reading this book because of its expansive explanations, its tables that are instructive of many aspects of collections policy. For the individual just curious about policy, this book is also a good resource as it is written in a more layman terms than the more academic type of book such as Molaro (A Legal Primer for Managing Collections)

I came across this book through my Collections Management class. The class shaped the way I structured my thesis and this book was instrumental in that. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in policy.

The book also illustrates some differences between types of collections an institution might have and the types of terminology one might use. For instance, using the word “Item” is considered inappropriate when referring to a piece in the collection within the collections management policy. The reason for this is because it is considered a unit of enumeration or a sum total. an uninformed board of a historical society may not be aware of this fact and that is why I feel information presented within Simmons’ book is invaluable to the education of a person who may not be a museum professional.