Collection Management and Conservation Manual

Manual-related Videos

Collection Management Course

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…

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