Author: Laura Stewart, Assistant Curator

When an item is donated to the Museum, donors are often curious as to what happens next. Where are the items stored? How does the Museum record them? Will the items be displayed?

The majority of items held in the Museum's collection are gifted by generous members of the public, referred to as donors. The Museum holds a meeting every three months, known as the Acquisitions Panel, to discuss items offered to the collection. This is guided by a development policy and involves a committee formed of staff members.

We are often approached by individuals who have served with REME, are a relative of someone from REME or simply found a REME-related item in their local charity shop. Many donors report that donating an item to the Museum can be reassuring in securing long-term care and preservation for a physical item as well as its history.

Model twin-bodied plane painted green, photographed from above. Spitfire logos on the wings.

A recently donated model plane made by a German Prisoner of War and gifted to a REME soldier. From the collection 2021.1.1

When an object is offered to the Museum there are a number of key considerations that can help to inform the future of its potential acquisition to the Museum's collection:

  • Its relevance to REME
  • Its ownership and how it came to be in the donor’s possession
  • The provenance available
  • In the case of a group of objects, the content and quantity
  • An item's condition and need for conservation
  • Its suitability to the Museum's development policy
  • The Museum's ability to commit to the long-term care of the object

Once these details have been established and questions answered, the committee meeting discusses the relevance of these items and whether they can be accepted as part of the Museum's collection. As the Museum has limited storage space, these policies and practices help to inform priorities and decisions for the collection. Our acquisitions processes are also informed by ethical and professional standards set by organisations such as the Collections Trust and Museums Association.

Unfortunately, not all items offered can be accepted to the Museum's collection. This may be for a number of reasons, including, the committee agreeing that the items are better suited to another Museum or that the Museum already holds duplicates of items offered. Where possible, staff try their best to recommend alternative homes for items that are declined by the Acquisitions Panel.

When items arrive at the Museum, an object entry form is completed to record their arrival into the Museum's care. A copy is signed and retained by the donor as a receipt, another stays with the object until it is accessioned and the final copy is filed for the Museum's records. Accessioning an object to the collection shows that the Museum is making a formal commitment to the long-term care of an item. To accession an item, a unique number is assigned to the object, it is permanently recorded and stored as part of the collection.

The REME Museum holds both three-dimensional objects as well as paper documents, these are managed by the Museum's Collection and Archive Teams. Where a collection of various items are gifted to the Museum, these are united by a common unique number and then recorded individually from .1 onwards.

Museums typically use a collections management system or catalogue to record every item in the collection on a central database, this is often computerised. At the REME Museum, we record all items in this way including newly accessioned items shortly after their arrival at the Museum. Items are labelled before being packed in order to ensure that they can be matched with their record.

Blue metal storage shelves filled with brown cardboard boxes in a room. The boxes have small white labels on them.

Donated objects are carefully stored as part of the Museum's collection.

We quarantine new arrivals at the Museum for a period of four weeks before finding them a permanent home in our collection stores. This ensures that any potential issues such as the presence of pests can be identified before exposing the existing collection to such risks. Once quarantined, the new items can be packed and stored in a permanent home and accurately recorded on the collections management system.

Not all items in the collection are guaranteed to be displayed in the Museum. When we accept an item to the collection, we agree to its long-term care and storage. Where possible relevant items are displayed in temporary exhibitions and shared with visitors to our social media pages. Donors are always welcome to visit the Museum and see any items that they have previously donated to the collection.

Do you have an item related to REME that you are considering donating to the Museum? Check out our Donate an Item page to find out more and contact us!