Sunday, November 22, 2009

Registration Number

The Registration Number (registration no in Small Museums Cataloguing Manual) can also be referred to as the accession number or record number.

It is a unique number used to identify an item.

There are many different ways to number items. Whatever method is chosen, be consistent.

Items can be numbered numerically - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc

Zeros can be added before the numbers - 0001, 0002, 0003, 0004, 0005 etc

Collections may be divided into sections - photographs - books - documents - artefacts - and a letter indicating the section used before the sequential number - P0001, P0002, P0003, P0004, P0005 etc A0001, A0002, A0003, A0004, A0005 etc

Collections may be divided into subject categories - schools - families etc - and a letter indicating the subject category used before the sequential number - S0001, S0002, S0003 etc

Barcode numbers can be used

If the records are to be included in a regional database a code indicating the name of the organisation may be required before the sequential number - W0001, W0002, W0003 etc or VKHS0001, VKHS002, VKHS0003 etc whatever type of code is decided by the regional database co-ordinator. This ensures individual numbers for all items in the regional database.

In the Victorian Local History Database both the Registration Number field and the Museum Code field are combined to create the individual number so any existing system used by organisations in recording record numbers can be accepted.

Some organisations have devised more complicated numbering systems representing, for example, name of organisation, type of item, subject category and numerical sequence, for example DD5AF1D3

If an item has multiple parts they can be distinguished using subdivisions such as WH0404.1, WH0404.2

Note it is advisable not to use the slash (/) sign to indicate the subdivision of a number as some database programs use this symbol as a Boolean search operator resulting in confusion when searching for Registration Numbers if used.

Whatever numbering system is chosen it must be provide a unique number for each item.

If Registration Numbers have not already been allocated for items and cataloguing is starting from scratch some programs provide the option of automatic numbering systems. Make sure that the number allocated is then recorded on the item.


Linda said...

Hi Vicki,

I am appreciating your work on this subject, but was wondering about this bit:

Pooo1, Pooo2, Pooo3, Pooo4, P0005 etc A0001, A0002, A0003, A0004, A0005 etc

One of the worst problems I have is that when I get new operators, getting them to be very careful with numbers being typed as (in your example above) P0001, P0003 etc, rather than Pooo1, Pooo3 or, even worse, POOO1, POOO3 etc. [that is an upper case letter "o"] As they sort very, very differently.

And I was wondering - do you recommend a permanent bound paper register to record numbers? I have one collection where I was only able to salvage the catalogue after many years as there was a proper register. However I am wondering how you would use a register if you are running several series of numbers, such as ones starting P0001 for photos, D0001 for documents.



Linda said...

Hi Vicky - further to my last - the problem may be more the typeface that your blog posts appear in. I THINK you have typed 000 in all cases - just the typeface makes them difficult to distinguish from ooo.

It is one of the traps!


Vicki's Blog said...


You are correct. When using zeros (0)you do have to be careful not to use the letter O or o. The typeface in the blog is deceptive so the example is not as clear as it may be. I did also make a typo which I have since corrected.

Groups using zeros to pad out numbers usually use a record skeleton (or template) in their database so that the stem of the number is automatically entered and only the ending needs to be added or changed.

Book Accession Registers are a good idea especially if there is a delay in cataloguing the item. Accession Registers provide basic information for items in the collection and also ensure that the accession / donor information is recorded. However, over time and provided that the donor information is entered in the cataloguing record, the information in the Donor section of the database will duplicate the information in the book Accession Register.

One group I worked with originally allocated a different series of accession numbers for each room of the house and had a series of small Accession Registers for each room. The system was later changed to one series of numbers for the collection.

I have also seen Accession Registers divided into sections to record A numbers, P numbers etc.

Some groups do not use a book Accession Register but rely on the database to carry out this function.