What is Collection Management?

What does the term Collection Management mean? It might sound like agency pursuing debts, but in the art world, it has a different and specific definition.

Collection Management is the term for the behind the scenes, nitty-gritty, and, some may say, more tedious, aspect of owning an art collection. Some sort of collection management is needed in collections large or small, public or private, and across all media.

At the most basic level, collection management refers to:

  • The organization and housing of each piece of artwork.
  • The record keeping and data administration associated with the collection.
  • The tracking of works as they are acquired, loaned, moved, or deaccessioned.

The difference between collectors and collection managers is that collectors want to make sure that the art is hung in the best light, on the best wall, and with the best aspect. Collection managers want to make sure there isn’t any unfiltered sunlight shining on the art, that the back of the frame has all the pertinent information about that piece, and that the location of the art is noted for future reference.

Good collection management techniques provide accessibility. Accessibility not just to the physical art object, but to it’s value, purchase information, artist, location, etc. Good collection management is unobtrusive, working with, not against, the natural mental and organizational practices of the collector. Yes, the collector. Not the collection manager. Ultimately it is the collector that will have the dinner party and want to show that one piece to the guest of honor. With the right kind of collection management, the collector will be able to find that piece immediately.

Good collection management allows the collector to go on collecting, showing, or enjoying the collection. When a collection gets too disorganized, large, and unwieldy, a collection manager can tame it back to order.

What else does good collection management do for the collector or the collection?

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