Assessing museum collections

What is the value of a museum collection of object? Who decides this value and how? This brochure forms a practical tool in the allocation of different value types to objects and collections.

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Until now, the valuation of heritage has been exclusively the responsibility of professionals like (art)historians , archaeologists and social geographers. However, the world changes and so does our outlook on the value of heritage. The expert is nowadays not the only one who has a say. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has developed a new tool for the valuation of museum objects and (sub) collections. This tool follows six steps and it’s not only to be used by professionals, but also by other enthusiasts like patrons, lenders and the public.

How to value

The appraisal of a collection forms from different criteria. The criteria identified, are classified into four main groups. One relates to formal features, such as provenance, condition and rarity or representativeness. This leads to a description, but not yet a valuation. The other three groups of criteria relate to three value domains: culture historical, social and use value. Although these three groups are in principle of equal value, users may impose their own hierarchy if they so wish. In order to be considered part of cultural heritage, an item or collection must satisfy at least one ‘culture historical’ criterion. 

For whom

This publication is aimed at anyone involved in the professional management of a collection and is also available in Dutch.


Text: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed
Editing, interviews and text advice: Anne Versloot
ISBN: 9789057992247
© Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, 2014