Glossary of Terms for Part 126, Museum Property

126 FW 1
Amended By
Amended by Decision Memorandum, “Approval of Revisions to ~350 Directives to Remove Gender-Specific Pronouns,” 6/22/2022
Originating Office
Division of Visitor Services and Communication

Accessioning is the process we use to accept and establish ownership or custody for museum property. Items must be accessioned to gain status as museum property. A single accession transaction occurs when one or more items are acquired in the same manner from a single source, and the resulting documentation is an accession record or a museum record. 

Accession number is a unique official U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) identification number that the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO) or the National Curator assigns sequentially to an accession within a duty station museum property collection. Alternative accession numbers can be assigned by non-Federal repository staff, but they are not official and must be accompanied by a Service accession number.

Accountable Property Officer is the Government employee (i.e., Regional Director) assigned overall responsibility for a specific group of personal property. The Accountable Property Officer is responsible for ensuring the establishment and maintenance of accountability records to provide for effective control over that property. See 126 FW 1.

Appraisal is the process by which the duty station’s Project Leader evaluates potential museum property against the Scope of Collection statement and determines informational, resource, and administrative values. This review leads to a decision as to whether or not to accession it. Materials are not considered museum property until they are accessioned in consultation with an RHPO.

Archives are audiovisual, electronic, or text documents created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value of the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control. Associated records for archaeological collections are a subset of archives. Archives do not include current records or museum records.

Board of Survey is a standing ad hoc committee appointed by the Accountable Property Officer. Its members are responsible for reviewing reports of lost or stolen property and investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine if there is any evidence of negligence, willful misconduct, or deliberate unauthorized use or disposition of the property.

Cataloging is the act of assigning and applying a unique identifier (a catalog number) to an object or specimen or group of objects and specimens within a particular accession number and completing descriptive documentation.

Controlled museum property is an individual object or a cataloged "lot" of objects that meet any of the following criteria:

     ·  has high intrinsic or scientific value;

     ·  is especially vulnerable to theft, loss, or damage;

     ·  is valued at or above a threshold of $5,000;

     ·  is especially sensitive (e.g., human remains); or

     ·  is a museum firearm.

The catalog record for the object must indicate that it is controlled museum property. All (100%) controlled museum property must be inventoried annually. Additionally, short-term incoming loans are treated like controlled museum property and must be 100% inventoried annually.

Curatorial services means a service that a contractor or partner provides to manage museum property according to Departmental and Service policy and professional museum practices. 

Curatorial staff includes all Service employees who have been assigned direct responsibility for managing and accounting for museum property. Curatorial staff also includes professionally trained museum curators, museum specialists, and museum technicians. Property management specialists, archaeologists, historians, wildlife biologists, interpreters, or others who perform museum property functions as a collateral duty are also included in this designation.

Custody means having immediate possession and charge of museum property, regardless of whether or not one has sufficient legal interest to lawfully treat the museum property as part of one’s own holdings. For example, a non-Federal repository may have custody of museum property through a short-term loan or repository agreement, but the Service retains ownership and control of the museum property.

Deaccessioning is the formal process of permanently removing accessioned objects or specimens from a museum property collection. It must take place in consultation with the RHPO and requires the Accountable Property Officer’s signature.

Disposition is the transferring, conveying, or relinquishing of property to another's care or possession. There are a number of methods of disposition, such as transfer, conveyance, and destruction.

Donations are items/property we accept directly from individuals or institutions, or through bequests (a donation through a will). We should not accept donations when there’s a condition put on that donation. The donor must own the property being donated.

Duty station is a Service organizational entity, such as a refuge, fish hatchery, Ecological Services field station, a Headquarters or Regional office, repository, or other administrative facility.

Facility is typically a building or structure structure
Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.

Learn more about structure
that the Service owns and operates using appropriated funds from Congress, revolving funds, or other funding sources (e.g., cost sharing, user contributions, user fees, etc.). The term also includes buildings/structures that other entities own, but which we maintain and for which we have operational and maintenance responsibilities.

Heritage assets are unique property because they have historical or natural significance; are of cultural, educational, or artistic (e.g., aesthetic) importance; or have significant architectural characteristics. Heritage assets can be collectible, such as items gathered and maintained for exhibit or study, or non-collectible, such as parks, memorials, monuments, structures, and buildings. For the most part, we are expected to preserve heritage assets indefinitely (see Statement of Federal Financial Accountability Standards (SFFAS) No. 29).

Loans are when we hold objects in temporary custody or lend them to others to further preservation, interpretation, and research objectives. Loans involve temporary legal custody changes, but not a change in ownership or title. Short-term loans are covered by loan agreements. Collections in the custody of a non-Service facility for long-term curation should be covered by a repository agreement, not a loan agreement.

Lost, damaged, stolen report documents a Board of Survey’s findings with respect to a given incident.

Maintenance is keeping assets (including museum property) in acceptable condition. It includes preventive maintenance, normal repairs, replacement of parts and structural components, and other activities needed to preserve the asset so that it continues to provide acceptable services and achieves its expected life. Maintenance and repair excludes activities aimed at expanding the capacity of an asset or otherwise upgrading it to serve needs different from, or significantly greater than, those originally intended (see SFFAS No. 6). Maintenance may change the condition of the asset (i.e., museum property objects or facilities).

Museum firearms include any weapons that are of historic value; are acquired for exhibit, research, or interpretation; and are accessioned into museum collections. Inoperable firearm components, such as those recovered from an archeological project, or any other historic firearm parts that do not function on their own, are not museum firearms. Museum firearms are controlled museum property, and 100% of them must be inventoried annually.

Museum object is a physical item in a museum collection or museum property. It includes art and history objects, archeological artifacts, ethnographic objects, archival items, and natural history specimens.

Museum records are official records that we create to manage museum property (e.g., accession, catalog, loan, and inventory records). As agency records, they must be maintained using the Service’s disposition schedule procedures, and, as necessary, certified to the Archivist of the United States that they are needed for current business. They are not museum property.

Non-Service facility is a facility that houses Service museum property, but where the Service lacks ownership and operation and maintenance (O&M) responsibilities (e.g., museum, historical society, university, research center, other Departmental Bureau facility). Non-Service facilities also may include transferred works. These are facilities that the Service owns, but where O&M is the responsibility of an operating entity (e.g., irrigation district, state, county, city, managing partner, or others) under a contract with the Service.

Preventive conservation actions prevent damage to and minimize deterioration of objects. Such actions include monitoring and controlling environmental agents; practicing proper handling, storage, exhibit, and packing and shipping techniques; implementing a housekeeping program; and addressing the care of museum property in the duty station's emergency management plan.

Scope of Collection statement is the basic planning document required for all Departmental duty stations that are, or expect to be, responsible for managing museum collections. The Scope of Collection statement describes the purpose of the museum collections, how they are used, and the parameters and limitations of collecting activities. The statement guides the duty station’s acquisition of museum collections.

Working and reference collections are specimens and items that a duty station maintains, but that are not intended for long-term preservation and care as museum property because they are expendable. We use working collections during education or ongoing research, and we may consume or discard them when they are no longer needed. Some specimens and items that were in a working or reference collection may subsequently be designated as museum property.