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Collection Management and Conservation Manual

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Collection Management Course


The Collection Management & Curation Course started in May 2021. There were two introductory webinars – Implementation of the Manual as a change process, and Course briefing.

To date, 13 topics have been covered in the Course, and for most of these there has been:

  • a webinar, to provide the content, based largely on the information provided in the Manual, but with some extra details where necessary.
  • a discussion forum to provide more in depth information for the assignment and to learn from others in the NSCF community,
  • an assignment with guidelines.

The topics covered to date:

  1. Ethics for collections
  2. Documentation for collections
  3. Risk assessment for collections
  4. Risk mitigation for collections
  5. Disaster response plans
  6. Health and safety for staff working in collections.
  7. Collection data management
  8. Collection care policies
  9. Collection storage
  10. Caring for wet collections
  11. Caring for dry collections
  12. Accessioning and deaccessioning of specimens
  13. Providing access to collections and data


The webinars and discussion forums are available on the NSCF website, and the assignment guidelines and templates are also all available on the site.

We have also had a series of tutorials, which evolved into check-in sessions for Course participants and then six tutorials to look at the requirements for the first six assignments.

We encouraged course participants to submit the first six assignments by the end of February 2022, and feedback and an indicative score of between one and five was provided on these to help participants improve the assignments.



There is one remaining topic that will be covered in November:

  1. Collection management and curation planning and implementation

A further nine tutorials are planned for the last week of November and first week of December to provide guidance on the assignments, particularly assignments 7-14, and the whole portfolio that needs to be submitted for the overall assessment.

There will be an opportunity to submit drafts for assignments 8-14 and to get feedback on these to help improve them for the final submission. Feedback will be provided on assignments 8-10 if these are submitted by the 10 December 2022, and on assignments 11-14 if these are submitted by the 20 January 2023. Feedback will be provided by the 15 January for assignments 7-10, and by the 31 January for assignments 11-14 for those drafts submitted on time (because of the tight timeframes we can’t provide feedback on dtafts submitted after the deadlines).

The final deadlines for submission of the portfolio, including a minimum of 10 assignments, a summary of contributions to the discussion forums and any work that you have done in implementing the Manual that is not covered in the assignments is the 28 February 2023. The final assessment of the portfolios will be completed by the 31 March 2023.



16 November: Webinar 14
23 November: Discussion Forum 14
28-30 November: tutorials on assignment 8, 9, 10 (2 hours)

1-6 December: tutorials on assignments 11, 12, 13, 14 (2 hours)
10 December: deadline for submission of drafts of assignments 8-10 (if you want to receive feedback / input)

15 January: feedback on draft assignments 8-10 if submitted by 10 December 2022.
20 January: deadline for submission of draft assignments 11-14 for feedback.
31 January: feedback on draft assignments 11-14 if received by 20 January 2023.

28 February 2023: Deadline for submission of final portfolio – minimum of 10 assignments, contributions to discussion forums, notes on Manual implementation / implementation of learnings from course (not covered by assignments)

MARCH 2023:
31 March: outcome of assessments communicated

APRIL 2023:
Award of certificates and prizes for participants who have successfully completed the course.




  • Assignments

Each assignment will be awarded a score out of 100, with the following allocation of points:

  • Completeness (extent to which the requirements for the assignment have been covered / included): 20
  • Level of detail included in assignments (how specific is the information that is provided?): 30
  • Accuracy / appropriateness of the information included (is what is stated correct relative to the collection / institution and resources available): 30
  • Use of correct template / presentation: 10
  • Initiative / innovation / real problem solving shown in the assignment: 10

Total of 1000 points which will be converted to a score out of 80

If more than 10 assignments are submitted, the top 10 scores will be included in the overall score for assignments, and a bonus score will be allocated for effort (see point 3.2 below).

  • Contribution to Discussion Forums, notes, and extra assignments completed
  • If presentations were given in the Discussion Forums
  • Reflections on implementation of learnings from the course
  • Notes on actions taken based on learnings / Manual implementation
  • Notes on how the assignments were done, especially when these were a team effort:
  • More than 10 assignments completed

Total score out of 20

Final score – 80 (assignments) + 20 (other efforts) = 100



To receive a certificate and be considered to have successfully completed the course a minimum  score of 50% is required.



There have been queries about the accreditation of the Course. When we were setting this up we explored various options for accreditation but this is not a simple or quick process. The course would have to be done through a recognised training institution (eg. university). The institution would want to know that there are sufficient students every year to ensure that the course is viable for them to register and run and this is a concern. They would need to generate revenue through the course and so they would charge a fee for this. The course would also have to be formally assessed to be accredited and this can take much longer than a year. Given the urgency to provide training for implementation of the Manual, we decided on the simplest approach which was to run the course inhouse.

What have we covered so far?

The Collection Management & Curation Course started in May 2021. There were two introductory webinars – Implementation of the Manual as a change process, and Course briefing.

To date, six topics have been covered in the Course, and for each of these there has been:

  • a webinar, to provide the content, based largely on the information provided in the Manual, but with some extra details where necessary.
  • a discussion forum to provide more in depth information for the assignment and to learn from others in the NSCF community,
  • an assignment with guidelines.

The topics covered to date:

  1. Ethics for collections
  2. Documentation for collections
  3. Risk assessment for collections
  4. Risk mitigation for collections
  5. Disaster response plans
  6. Health and safety for staff working in collections.

We have also had a series of tutorials, which have evolved into check-in sessions for Course participants.

Reflection on participation and progress with the Course

Through the check-in sessions and input from the Collection Management & Curation Working Group we recognise that many of the course participants are struggling with time to attend the webinars and discussion forums, and most participants have fallen behind with their assignments.

In some cases there have been challenges with access to offices / institutions because of Covid lockdown restrictions and so staff have not had internet access, or they have not been able to meet as a group to work on assignments.

There are other challenges being experienced by staff – some may be unsure how to tackle an assignment and have no one in their institution to help them. Some staff may not feel motivated to do the assignment and some may feel overwhelmed by their own normal workload.

At the end of November we decided to take a break from the webinars and discussion forums to give everyone a chance to catch up with their assignments.

We also decided that all assignments, even if they are just a draft, should be submitted at the end of January for input from the Hub team. This would provide guidance but also provide some motivation to work on the assignments.

What are the plans for 2022 and the Course?

Submission of first six assignments:

The deadline for the submission of the assignments is extended to the 28 February 2022to give everyone a chance to spend time on these. We understand that people needed a good break over the holiday period and coming back to work in January has its own pressures (getting kids off to school, getting brains to refocus on work matters, catching up with what needs to be done from last year …).

We recommend thatat least four of the six assignments should be completed (even if it’s a draft) and submitted at the end of February.

The Hub team will review the assignments and provide feedback on these. They will be submitted as final versions at the end of the course, with the other assignments.

We will runvoluntary tutorial sessions in February(online) on each of the assignments to help anyone who has questions, or who is stuck with a particular aspect of the assignment. These sessions will also be an opportunity for learning from others.

Course schedule:
We considered spreading out the webinars and discussion forums and increasing the time between these, but the risk is that course participants will lose focus and disengage, and that this will not really help. We will increase the time between the webinar and discussion forum for a particular topic to allow for contributors to develop their presentations / contributions. We have added sessions to those originally planned so that we don’t overload topics with too much information.

MARCH: Data standards and workflows
Development of workflows for data capture, quality assessment and data upgrades.
Assignment 7: Development of a data process workflow.

APRIL: Collection and curation policies– what are these? The main points for the policies. How these policies link to SOPS and plans.
Discussion forum: we need presentations that critically reflect on existing policies in institutions.
Assignment 8: Review of existing policies for collections, with a focus on collection care.

MAY: Collection storage and organisation– general principles and standards.
Discussion forum: we need presentations or videos showing the existing storage facilities and organisation of different types of collections and examples of how collections were reorganised.
Assignment 9: Review and recommendations for organisation of a specific collection OR assessment of existing collection storage against standards, highlighting problems and identifying needs.

JUNE: Environmental conditions for collections– general principles and standards
Discussion forum: we need presentations and videos showing environmental controls in collection storerooms–light, temperature and humidity controls, monitoring systems.
Assignment 10: Assessment of current environmental conditions for collection storerooms.

JULY: Caring for wet collections: preservative options, monitoring and measuring concentration and topping up, replacing preservatives, dealing with dried out material.
Discussion forum: demonstrations of the different activities (videos / presentations).
Assignment 11:Development of a standard operating procedure (SOP) for managing fluid preservatives in a wet collection.

AUGUST: Integrated pest management for dry collections: preventing pests, monitoring pests, treating infestations.
Discussion forum: we need presentations and videos on pest monitoring, dealing with pests in different types of collections.
Assignment 12: Development of a standard operating procedure for integrated pest management of a dry collection.

SEPTEMBER: Accessioning and deaccessioning policy and procedures.
Discussion forum: we need examples of how new material is accessioned and integrated into the collection, how backlogs in accessions are being dealt with, examples of deaccessioning.
Assignment 13: Development of a workflow for accessioning new material into the collection OR a plan for addressing a backlog in non-accessioned objects.

OCTOBER: Access to collections: loans, visitors, destructive sampling and provision of data and images.
Discussion forum: we need presentations and videos of packaging loans for different types of collections, dealing with visitors and visitor facilities, destructive sampling.
Assignment 14: Development of workflow for loans.

NOVEMBER: Collection management and curation plans.
Discussion forum: we need presentations on plans for collections (either annual or longer term).
Assignment 15: Development of a curation plan for a collection or if a plan exists already, review it considering the standards in the Manual and the guideline points in policy in the Collection Management and Curation Manual. This is a compulsory assignment (everyone has to do it).

DECEMBER 2022-JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023: Finalisation and submission of minimum of 10 assignments, contributions to discussion forums and any tutorials presented: end of February 2023.

MARCH 2023: Assessment of submissions: March 2023. Outcome to be provided by the end of March 2023.

Assignment Tutorials

10 February
09h00-11h00: Assignment 1 (ethics policy);
14h00-16h00: Assignment 2 (collection documentation).

17 February
09h00-11h00: Assignment 3 (risk assessment report);
14h00-16h00: Assignment 4 (risk treatment plan);

22 February
09h00-11h00: Assignment 5 (emergency / disaster response plan);
14h00-16h00: Assignment 6: health and safety assessment.

These tutorials are not compulsory but are an opportunity to get more details on what is required, to ask questions on any aspects of the assignment and to learn from each other.

A reminder!

What is expected of participants:

  1. Attend all webinars
  2. Attend and participate in Discussion Forums – may need to do a short presentation, or ask questions or answer questions / provide insights to other participants
  3. Be involved in a tutorial – make a video on a particular skill you have or to share knowledge on a very specific activity; watch all the tutorials
  4. Complete a minimum of 10 assignments
  5. Keep your presentations, notes you make, the assignments you complete (either written or video recording) – put these together into a portfolio and submit


  • The Course requires actions – what the Manual covers and what is reviewed in the webinars needs to be taken back and implemented in institutions / collections. The assignments will focus on this type of work.
  • There will be 15 assignments, but you will need to complete 10 of these.
  • In addition, you will need to make 2 contributions – presentation at a Discussion Forum or video, or we may identify other ways of contributing.
  • For assignments, tutorial videos or Discussion Forum contributions, you can work individually or in a team.
  • Teams can be within an institution or from different institutions.
  • Teams will need to work together – if physical meetings, remember social distancing, sanitiser, masks, ventilation. Your other option is to meet up virtually.
  • Team assignments – will need to document who team members were, and how each member contributed.
  • We can organise additional workshops if necessary – either open to all, or with a group / institution.

In the collections assessment of 2010/11 and during the discussions to establish the NSCF, the need for training and capacity development in collection management and curation was repeatedly raised. Training is essential to professionalise collection management and curation for natural science collections in South Africa, and to ensure that collections are managed and cared for according to accepted standards and procedures.

We have assessed what training in collection management and curation is offered at various institutions in South Africa, and while there are some courses available, these are either at a postgraduate level, or the content is marginal to what we need or it is very narrow. It is also important that what is learned aligns with the standards and procedures agreed on by the NSCF community and documented in the NSCF Collection Management and Conservation Manual. We also need to accept the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, which limits travel and gatherings, the financial challenges facing all institutions and funders, and the limited time available for staff to undertake studies. In future we could adopt a different approach or sponsor staff to attend more advanced courses or do postgraduate studies, but as a first step, we need to train staff in what the Manual covers, working under our current circumstances, and without waiting for these to change.

The NSCF Hub will be co-ordinating webinars and various other virtual forums to provide guidance and support for implementing the Manual and this offers an opportunity to develop capacity at the same time. With the addition of learning exercises aimed at getting participants to engage with the Manual content in their actual work environment, and an assessment, we will be offering a comprehensive and credible course. While we would have liked to offer this training through a recognised higher education institution, the process of registration and accreditation is simply too complicated and can take years to finalise. The NSCF will therefore offer a certificate for those participants who successfully meet the assessment requirements.

The course will cover the material in the NSCF Collection Management and Conservation Manual, although the sequence will be different.

Topics to be covered in the course:

  1. Ethics for collections
  2. Documentation for collections
  3. Collections focus and expansion strategy
  4. Health and safety in collections
  5. Risk assessment for collections
  6. Disaster management
  7. Collections management and curation: storage environments, care of different types of collections (topping up ethanol, pest monitoring and control), organising collections, updating labels and inventory.
  8. Access to collections: loans, visitors, tissue samples, images and data
  9. Acquisitions
  10. Deaccessioning
  11. Data management

Webinars will be run by the NSCF Hub or staff at participating institutions to cover the material in the different chapters of the Manual. These webinars will provide an overview of what is covered in a section or chapter, as well as the main points that are important for collections. For some of the topics more than one webinar will be necessary.

Tutorials will provide guidance on specific activities that are covered in the Manual, such as how to develop a workflow document for new acquisitions or for sending out loans, or how to monitor environmental conditions in the collections storerooms.

Discussion forums will be run after the webinars. These provide an opportunity to ask questions, and to share knowledge and experience, and get advice on challenges encountered.

Assignments for each topic will be set. These will be in the form of an individual or team activity in that will need to be carried out in the institution / collection where the staff member is based, and which aims to promote learning through the process but also to contribute to implementing the Manual at the same time.

At the end of the course participants will submit a portfolio that includes all their work, including descriptions of the activities they have implemented in their institution or collection. For those staff who prefer, video recordings can be used rather than written work for the portfolio. The activities can be carried out and written up individually or as a team.

  1. Participants are expected to attend all sessions (webinars, discussion forums, tutorials). These will be recorded and made available on the NSCF website so if someone is not able to make a particular session they will be expected to watch the recording on their own. 
  1. Submission of a portfolio that documents, either through video or using photos and text, their work in implementing the Manual, according to the activities assigned through the course. Any materials (notes, presentation slides, recordings) of contributions to webinars, tutorials or discussion forums can also be included to illustrate contribution to the NSCF Manual implementation process. The portfolio will be assessed according to the following criteria:
  • Completeness – have all the assignments been completed?
  • Understanding of the content of the Manual, as shown by the work done in the institution, either as an individual or as part of a team.
  • Contribution to discussions, tutorials or through assisting other participants in the course.

The course will start with the first webinar in the second half of May 2021. We anticipate that the course will take 18 months to complete, so it should end and certificates be awarded by the end of 2022.

We expect that there will be one webinar, one discussion forum and one tutorial per month, but we will see how participants are coping with this load and pace. Each of these sessions will take between one and two hours, which is a total of six hours a month for the sessions. The amount of time required to do the activities will vary from four to 40 hours a month, depending on how it is carried out, how complex it is and whether it is done by an individual or by a team.

Proposed schedule

This schedule may change, depending on course participants’ ability to cope with the timing; and some topics might be moved around if the need arises.

2021 (first 3 – non compulsory, available for catch up on YouTube)
  • February: Webinar: process of implementing the Manual
  • March: Webinar: Implementation of the Manual as a change process
  • May: Discussion Forum: how institutions are implementing the Manual
  • May: Webinar: Ethics for collections
  • May: Discussion Forum: Ethics policies, code of conduct
  • June: Webinar: Collection documentation: policy, standards, workflows, templates
  • June: Discussion Forum: Collection documentation
  • July: Webinar: Risk assessment and disaster management
  • July: Discussion Forum: Risk assessment and disaster management
  • August: Webinar: Disaster preparedness
  • August: Discussion Forum: Disaster preparedness
  • September: Webinar: Health and Safety in collections
  • September: Discussion Forum: Health & Safety in collections
  • October: Webinar: Collection care part 1
  • October: Discussion Forum: Collection care part 1
  • November: Webinar: Collection Care Part 2
  • November: Discussion Forum: Collection Care part 2
  • December: Collection care tutorials
  • January: Webinar: Access to collections and data
  • February: Discussion Forum: Access to collections and data
  • February: Webinar: Data management
  • March: Discussion Forum: Data management
  • March: Webinar: Acquisition of collection objects
  • April: Webinar: Deaccessioning of collection objects
  • April: Discussion Forum: Acquisition of collection objects
  • May: Webinar: Deaccessioning collection objects
  • May: Discussion Forum: Deaccessioning collection objects
  • June: Tutorials
  • July: catch up and review
  • August: catch up  and review
  • September: finalisation of portfolios
  • October: submission of portfolios


Any staff working in any of the participating institutions can register for the course.

We accept that some staff may not have post-matric qualifications, but they may have extensive experience and be very committed to working in natural science collections, while other staff may have a postgraduate qualification but limited collection-based experience. We recognise this diversity, and will work to accommodate anyone who is committed, irrespective of their qualifications or prior experience. This is an opportunity to share knowledge and experience and help each other grow and develop as a community.

  1. Check with your supervisor or line manager that they support your participation in the course.
  2. Make sure that you will be able to link to virtual sessions – you will need a computer and internet connection.
  3. Complete the registration form.
  4. We will confirm your registration and send you any other details or materials that might be needed.

The course content is based on the NSCF Collection Management and Conservation Manual, so the material has been developed by the whole NSCF community.

  • Michelle Hamer (NSCF Lead) has designed the approach for the course. Michelle has lectured at all levels, from science foundation to coursework masters, for over 10 years; she did a semester-long (6 month) course in Higher Education Practice through the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award by the University for innovation in curriculum development and teaching practice. She has also worked as a collection manager and as a curator in two different museums and worked in senior management in the SANBI Division under which three herbaria fall.
  • Audrey Ndaba (Collection Management and Conservation Co-ordinator) has extensive experience in collection management, and she co-ordinated the Working Group that compiled the Manual. Audrey will be responsible for co-ordination of sessions and leading some of the discussions.
  • NSCF Hub staff, including Ian Engelbrecht, Margaret Bartkowiak and Ilse van der Merwe, will present sessions on specimen data, and specimen imaging and labelling.
  • Staff within the NSCF community who have expertise in a particular area of work will be asked to share their knowledge by presenting on some topics, or leading discussions, or a tutorial.
  • All staff who attend interactive sessions will share knowledge – so the whole community will be responsible for contributing to the course.

The NSCF Collection Management Course is new and different to anything else offered anywhere in the world. We are not sure exactly how it will unfold – a lot will depend on participants and their environments, experiences, expectations and whatever the world may throw at us. But active learning – getting involved in actually implementing what is in the Manual will be a far more effective way of learning than just sitting through a series of lectures. And the contribution that participants make to their institutions and collections through course activities will be far greater as well.

We invite you to join this exciting journey with us…

Course-related Videos


Upcoming Events

Webinar | Collection Management and Curation Planning

Date: Wednesday, 16 November 2022
Time: 11h00-12h00
Platform: Zoom
Webinar ID: 852 9283 7209
Registration link: here