Your collection

Status, assessment and analyses

How well do you know the collections you are responsible for?

  • • Do you have an overview of the collections in your organisation?
  • • What are your rights and duties with respect to the collections?
  • • Do you know its general history and origin?
  • • What information is known and available about the collections you are responsible for?
  • • Is this information readily available and are you familiar with it?
  • • Is your team familiar with the history and origin of the collections?
  • • What is the impact your work or project will have on the collections?
  • • Is your team aware of this?
  • • Is there any relevant collection information missing that is necessary for your work or project planning and priority setting?
  • • How can you get that information to help you with strategic planning?

What is the status of the collections?

  • • Do you have methods and criteria available to analyse the collection information?
  • • How detailed does your assessment need to be, e.g. at specimen, storage unit or department level?
  • • Are there any schemas available or do you have to develop your own method?
  • • Are you familiar with high-level assessment methods (e.g. by SYNTHESYS) and how to use them?
  • • What are the possible criteria to evaluate a status of a collection?
  • • How can you measure them?
  • • How would you decide whether it is a strength or weakness?
  • • How would you conduct an assessment?
  • • What kind of data and information will the assessment provide? Do they fit to your needs? Will they answer your question?

What is the status of policies and procedures?

  • • Are you aware of the overall state of conservation of the collections you are responsible for?
  • • What are major risks to the collections when conducting your work or project, both physical (e.g. damage) and regarding its success (e.g. sustainability)?
  • • Are there any legal or ethical restrictions that will influence your work, e.g. health & safety issues, acquisition and deaccession or legal issues?
  • • Is there anything that you cannot do because of specific restrictions?
  • • Do you and your team have policies and procedures in place to deal with them?

How will you use the assessment data?

  • • How will you use the data to set your work priorities?
  • • What areas do the data suggest require improvement and why?
  • • What are your biggest challenges and why?
  • • What will be the follow-up to your assessment?
  • • How will you use the results internally and externally?
  • • How future-proof is your collection, i.e. how flexible are its preservation methods and accessibility to allow for future uses?

Users, stakeholders and value of collections

In order to produce relevant output, it is important in any project to understand who the stakeholders and users are and what they need. Your work should be driven by stakeholder and user needs, as our collections are. The use of collections will add value to them. Who are the major stakeholder and user groups of your collections or in the scenario you have chosen? How can you describe and increase the value of your collections?

What is the purpose of the collections?

  • • Why does the organisation keep these collections?
  • • Who are the (key) users of the collections and what do they use them for?
  • • What do they expect from the organisation?
  • • Does the organisation and collections meet the needs of these users?
  • • How can you measure and demonstrate (scientific, societal) impact of use of the collections?
  • • What are the possible criteria for measuring use?

Who are stakeholders?

  • • Who are the stakeholders of the organisation and/or who are stakeholders of your project?
  • • Who might be future stakeholders? Why and what do you have to do to link them to the organisation?

What is the value of the collections?

• How can you measure the value of collections and what are the possible criteria?

  • • How can you demonstrate their (scientific, societal, historic, monetary) value?
  • • Does the value differ for the various stakeholders?

Access to collections

  • • What are the benefits of access to collections?
  • • How can you measure it?
  • • How can you describe the impact of collection use on science and society?
  • • Can you measure the impact? If so, what measures would you use?

How is access to the collections organised and who is responsible?

  • • What kind of access is provided to whom and under what conditions?
  • • Who is taking decisions on what kind of access will be allowed and for whom?
  • • What are the restrictions? Why?
  • • What are the costs of access?
  • • Can you reduce the costs and if so, how?
  • • Are bench fees or services on demand an option and if so, how would you organise that?
  • • What are the risks associated with the access you provide?
  • • Are there ethical or cultural considerations?

Does the access to collections meet the requirements of known and potential new users?

  • • Who are the users and what kind of access do they need?
  • • Does the access you provide meet these needs?
  • • What are major barriers to access and how will you overcome them?
  • • Can you solve these barriers by small adjustments or do you need major changes?
  • • Is there a bottleneck in physical or digital access?
  • • Is digitisation a possible way to enable more customised access?
  • • Do you have a strategy to open up your collection digitally?
  • • What kind of access will users require in the future?
  • • How will you be prepared for this?
  • • How can management of the collections benefit from future or alternative means of access?

Collection development

Does your collection fit the institution’s mission and/or the aim of your project?

  • • Do you want to optimise your collection in terms of its coverage, information content, use of space, etc.?
  • • What are possible ways within the legal framework?
  • • Will the collection you are responsible for remain static or will you acquire or dispose?
  • • Does your institution need to continue collecting new specimens? Why or why not?
  • • What are your criteria for acquisition and disposal?
  • • What legal requirements are there? Are there rules or laws governing this?
  • • Is there an existing policy in place governing what should be acquired or disposed of?
  • • What are the ethical considerations in acquiring or disposing of collections?
  • • Who should be involved in the decisions internally and/or externally?
  • • Do you and/or your colleagues have the levels of competency needed to make these decisions?
  • • Who is authorised to make these decisions?
  • • How will you explain to and convince the public that deaccessioning and collecting are normal and legal procedures in collections management?
  • • What are your alternatives to disposal?
  • • Is repatriation an issue and if so how are you addressing it?
  • • Are you acquiring objects which are taking up valuable storage space and do not really match the collections profile or benefit users?
  • • Do you have the resources such as staff, competencies and space to house and manage new acquisitions?
  • • Are there any health and safety considerations in play?

Project planning

Human resources

How will you organise your work and the team you are about to lead?

  • • How will you organise the decision-taking processes?
  • • Are roles and responsibilities clear?
  • • Do your team members know about their roles and responsibilities?
  • • Does the structure allow for communication, knowledge sharing and help you to achieve your goals?
  • • If not, can you change it?
  • • If you cannot change it, what mechanisms can you put into place to help you achieve your goals?

What personnel resources do you need to achieve your goals?

  • • What specialist skills and competencies do you need in your team?
  • • Do you have these skills and competencies in your team?
  • • What kind of competencies are missing but essential to add to your team?
  • • How will you build a team with the competencies you need?
  • • Is there a pool of resources you can use?
  • • Are there staff members that can be developed in a way needed for the project?
  • • Will you need to bring in or ask for new staff?
  • • How will you fund that?

Are there other ways to acquire necessary competencies and expertise?

  • • Do you need to bring in external expertise? How would you do this?
  • • Is outsourcing an option?
  • • Are volunteers an option? How would you organise this?
  • • Could your objectives be met through collaboration with other institutions?
  • • Are there existing consortia? How would you approach them?
  • • Are there specialist groups that could help with advice? How would you engage with them?

Budget and fund raising

What financial resources do you need to realise your project?

  • • Is all information available to make proper calculations?
  • • What funds are available?
  • • Can you get sufficient funds to realise your plans?
  • • If not, what are your priorities, what would you cancel or postpone and why?
  • • How is your decision-making process organised, if you will have to scale down?
  • • Are there any opportunities to be more cost efficient (e.g. outsourcing versus in-house, off-site versus on-site storage or collaboration and consortia) to achieve your goals?

Do you have a strategy to find additional funds to realise your project?

  • • Do you know where to look for additional funding?
  • • Do you have an overview of funding agencies and funding programmes on local, national and international levels?
  • • Do you have a team member with fund raising skills?
  • • What will be your fund raising strategy?
  • • How will you sell your project to potential funders or to your Director?
  • • Do you have a proper project proposal?
  • • Are you prepared to pitch your idea to a potential funder at any time?

216 Asking the right questions

Performance indicators, risks and controlling

How will you measure progress and success of your project/activities/ collection performance?

  • • What indicators do you currently use?
  • • Do they measure performance against objectives?
  • • Are they measuring activity or performance?
  • • Are they meaningful and not conflicting with other indicators?
  • • What other indicators do you need?

What are the risks to the success of your project?

  • • Have you conducted a risk assessment?
  • • Do you have a risk log?
  • • Are there any legal or ethical constraints that might affect your project, e.g. health and safety?
  • • What barriers or risks have been identified, e.g. is the infrastructure such as IT services in place to support your objectives?
  • • How might the risks influence or interfere with your project/goals/ objectives?
  • • What kind of preventive measures should you take?
  • • What would be the worst case scenario?
  • • Are you prepared for this and what would you do?
  • • What kind of controlling mechanisms and safety measures do you have in place to prevent the project from failing?

Your situation and your questions

When developing your own strategic framework, you will face more specific questions. There is space here to describe your situation and add your questions. This could be helpful when practicing, but also as a reminder when looking back at a later stage in your career.

Your situation and your challenges

What is your challenge and/or project? What are the important aspects that you need to keep in mind?

Which questions are missing?

What are the specific questions that you had to or will have to ask (and have answered) in your situation?

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