muccamukk: Abe has a question. (Hellboy: Question)
[personal profile] muccamukk
If you were the Smithsonian, and you had a bunch of stuff in a box in storage, what would the inventory ticket for that look like? I assume there's some kind of catalogue/database that has something like: Wooden box, containing crystal skull. c. 1830. Collected by Davie Jones, 1901. Corridor x, shelf b, box 37. But exact details would be great. Actual images or references would be amazing. I'm googling the wrong terms or something.

(For found document fic.)

ETA: To be clear, I'm looking for whatever the record would look like now, in present day, not in 1901.

Date: 2017-06-15 06:42 am (UTC)
misbegotten: A blue whatchmacallit shoe that looks like the TARDIS (Default)
From: [personal profile] misbegotten
The only examples I'm finding are for individual records for botany samples. Though here are some accession records from the collections of Teddy Roosevelt.

Interesting stuff, but I don't think it helps. Sorry.

Date: 2017-06-15 07:45 am (UTC)
jadesfire: Bright yellow flower (Default)
From: [personal profile] jadesfire
I'm a librarian rather than an archivist, but I managed to find this: and this: which might be of use?

Date: 2017-06-15 11:51 am (UTC)
jadesfire: Bright yellow flower (Default)
From: [personal profile] jadesfire
Ah, sorry! I saw the 1830 and assumed. Do they still have cards? We keep our archive material in grey boxes labelled with the reference number, and the catalogue details are kept online.

Hope you find what you're after!

Date: 2017-06-15 03:22 pm (UTC)
jadesfire: Bright yellow flower (Default)
From: [personal profile] jadesfire
Sorry - I really wasn't much help, the answers downthread are much more useful!

I'd just add that sometimes we put stuff in catalogue records that don't get displayed on the public website. You just tell the site not to display that field, but you can see it if you have access to the staff software. That can be things like former shelfmarks, notes on the collection it originally belonged to, things like that.

In terms of what they physically look like on the screen, the ones I've used have just been a white screen with database field codes down the left-hand side. Our archivist's has gridlines as well. Some software will tell you what the code stands for, others just give you the numbers and you have to try to remember which is which. Again, for plotting, that's the sort of thing where if you put the wrong field code in (MARC is a particular pig for this), information can end up being shown or suppressed. My guess is that different parts of the Smithsonian will use slightly different-looking software, so you're probably good to imagine it as you want :)

Date: 2017-06-15 11:18 am (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
The inventory ticket would probably also mention the size of the skull and/or box and whether or not there was some sort of padding in the box as well (if there wasn't, that would change procedures for retrieval and transportation, so it's a relevant detail). There would have to be enough description of the skull to identify it if it were stolen or misplaced. If the location where it was found is known, that would likely be on the ticket, too, and possibly an attribution as to who (or which culture) is believed to have made it.

Oh, and probably a donor's name if the donor isn't the same person who collected it. Donor names are hugely important if the item ever goes on display because other potential donors need to see that, if they donate, they'll be publicly recognized for it.

Date: 2017-06-15 11:39 am (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Here's an example of an archival record:;view=reslist Clicking on 'full text' yields considerably more information, but some of that detail is likely due to the whole thing being online.

Poking around this website might help you find things closer to what you're looking for. I know they've got things that aren't books. 'Special Collections' is the University of Michigan umbrella term for rare things and things that don't fit elsewhere. The archive on campus is the Clements Library.

I know that Michigan State University has a collection of comics and superhero related material. When I took a cataloging course in 1990, the instructor talked about a cataloging record for a roll of toilet paper that was decorated with superhero images (her main point was that we might be expected to catalog just about anything. As I recall, the record included a condition note: "Roll is incomplete.").

Date: 2017-06-15 11:41 am (UTC)
marthawells: (Reading)
From: [personal profile] marthawells
The Smithsonian has a few different tumblrs:,,, plus some others. I follow the libraries one and they're fairly active and seem nice, maybe they'd answer questions.

Date: 2017-06-15 12:40 pm (UTC)
peachpai: (annabelle)
From: [personal profile] peachpai
So this not actually an archivist question, this is an anthropology registrar question when you're talking about a natural history museum like the Smithsonian. These days things are not often identified directly on the tag, partly because of the sheer volume of stuff museums have to keep track of and partly because old identifications change, but there would be an accession number to look it up in the computer database. Here is an example of something I would use for an artifact tag:

Accession #*
Site name
Site #
Lot # (in the right corner)
Unit #
Context #
Level # [Depth cmbd (centimeters below datum)]
Initials of excavators, if available
Date excavated

Context is a relatively new designation, so a ID tag for something not excavated in the last, say, ten years, would probably include "feature #" instead. I might be able to find a good example of a new tag for an artifact not recently excavated in lab today to take a photo of, if you like.

All that would likely be on a tag that looks similar to this:

*Accession numbers include an abbreviation of the museum's name, then probably the year, then the lot number, then the object number. I don't know what the Smithsonian's abbreviation is offhand, but it would look something like this: SMNH 1901.1.1
Edited Date: 2017-06-15 12:45 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-15 01:17 pm (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
Are you looking for a newer record because the story is set in the present, or because the artifact would have entered the museum more recently?

If it's the first one, the answer is very likely that there *isn't* a newer physical record. Museums with extensive archived collections don't go through and recatalogue the whole collection just to bring things up to date, and if they *had* done a full recataloging anytime in the last, oh, 30-40 years, it would have been digital.

It's been awhile since my one visit to a Smithsonian backroom archive, but based on smaller museums, an exhibit I saw at the Field in Chicago, and asking my archeologist sister, what you'd probably have is a) a paper record dating to the time the artifact was originally accessioned (similar to the ones linked above, probably) and b) a digital database record. The Smithsonian's artifact database is online; here's the results for scupltures of skulls.

My sister says that unless the Smithsonian is very different from other large museum archives, they probably wouldn't even update the original paper records if collections were moved and reorganized; stuff is just sort of shelved roughly by whatever system the museum uses (generally either date of accession, general topic, and/or subcollection) without the exact location recorded and it's up to the archivists to guess where to look for stuff that's requested. Depending on the individual department within the Smithsonian, there might be other records appended for exhibition history, work done, or other corrections/additions; then again there might not be.

Unless it actually disintegrated/was completely unreadable *and* someone happened to notice, or the accession number changed for some strange reason, it would probably be the a) original physical record from the time of accession and b) a digital database entry with only maybe c) additional records attached to one or both. (Also note that there are very few large, old museums where the digital database is complete and correct; even the Smithsonian notes that things are still being constantly backadded and corrected in theirs.)

The original record would probably not be super-standardized and would depend on exactly what part of the museum accessioned it and exactly when, so you can likely fudge the details.
Edited Date: 2017-06-15 01:23 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-15 03:57 pm (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
There is older stuff in there, I'm seeing accession numbers back to 1968 for not-recently-exhibited stuff, and I suspect they used a different accession # format for the really old stuff that might make it less obvious to tell. So it's reasonable your thing could be there.

But yeah, no large museum I know of has a fully inventoried digital catalog for the stuff in the dusty back corners that nobody's looked at. They might be digging through old paper ledgers and card files. (In fact, unless the Smithsonian is way more organized than most other museums, in a lot of the really old un-looked-at stuff also doesn't have accurate paper cataloging either, and if they don't find a paper record it might be more like "oh, you found a record in someone else's correspondence that we were given that? okay let's check our correspondence from that period, okay yeah there was a collection donated around that time that it could have been part of, that stuff's all in these boxes over there probably, let's go digging and hope we get lucky.")
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