Challenging the Concept of Infinity Retention of Collections in Selected National Museums in Zimbabwe

Challenging the Concept of Infinity Retention of Collections in Selected National Museums in Zimbabwe

Nyasha Agnes Gurira (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3137-1.ch020


The chapter challenges the concept of undefined, infinity, and indefinite retention periods of collections in Zimbabwe's state museums and underscores the need for each state museum to develop a collections management policy. The concept of indefinitely retaining collections characterizes Zimbabwe's National Museums. In that regard, this chapter interrogates issues surrounding collections management in Zimbabwe's state museums. Museums in Zimbabwe are overburdened with inherited collections from the past with limited supporting information. This coupled with the need to store contemporary collections congests the storage space in museums. A multiple case study approach was employed to examine the state of collections in three selected state museums in Zimbabwe. Findings revealed that collections in these museums have been inherited from the past collectors who amassed collections with limited information about them. There was no formal collections management policy. The chapter proposes a regime to guide museums in dealing with their collections.
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Collection Management In Museums And The Problem Of Managing Space

According to article 3 subsection 1 of the International Council of Museums (ICOM, 2017) statutes

A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. (ICOM statues, 2017, p. 2)

This ICOM definition provides an understanding of the roles and functions of a museum. It underlines the primary goals of a museum, which are to acquire and keep the natural and cultural, tangible and intangible collections of humanity (ICOM, 2017). Acquisition is an everyday function in museums and this is a practice that has its origins as far back as the second millennium BC. As old as the practice is, there have been a lot of collections amassed in museums over the years (Lewis, 2004). The reason for these collections being made is evident in the museum code of professional ethics principle II which, gives museums the mandate to hold collections in trust for mankind and its development (ICOM code of ethics for museums, 2017, p. 7). There have been efforts by museologists to gather this primary evidence of mankind’s development. With the vast improvements to technology made by humankind in a bid to adapt and successfully use their environment, humankind has created and disposed a lot of material. Evidence of which is found in museum repositories.

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