Collections Management

Code: AHVS488B
Apply this course towards: Collections Management, Cultural Resource Management, Visitor and Community Engagement

Course description

Central to the museum’s existence—from nature preserve to anthropology museum, contemporary art gallery to historical site—is the collection and use of objects and specimens: the material evidence of humans and their environment. This course addresses the roles of those collections within the framework of institutional mission and community objectives, and goes on to explore a range of management topics including:

  • ethics
  • policy
  • technology
  • accessioning
  • cataloguing
  • registration
  • documentation

…along with factors influencing collection development and management.

This course is intended to provide you with a thoughtful and balanced understanding of principles and practices that strengthen your ability to engage and lead the processes of collections development, registration, documentation, access, care, use, and planning. Together we will focus on the roles of collections within the institution and the community and the impact that our changing society and profession is having on managing collections for the future.

Learning objectives

  • Appreciate the ways in which collections and collections management functions support and serve institutional missions/mandates and communities.
  • Understand collections management principles and practices, and professional roles and responsibilities.
  • Recognize the range of perspectives that have—and continue to—influence collections acquisition, management and use.
  • Identify the forces of change that have an impact upon museum collections and the tools for managing change within the collections management function.
  • Recognize professional networks and resources and the means for accessing those resources to aid in the effective management of collections.
  • Look beyond traditional expectations of collections and collections management practices to anticipate continually changing roles and responsibilities for museums in the future.


  1. All participants should have a professional or voluntary role in collections-holding organization, which may serve as their ‘partner organization’ for completion of course assignments. As this course explores content in the context of actual museum practices, you are asked to arrange for access to the collections management policies and procedures of a local museum (e.g. history museum, art gallery, heritage site, nature park, etc. — a public institution with a collection). Under certain circumstances a partner could be a commercial art gallery or cultural resource management company (e.g. an archaeological consulting firm). Please contact your instructor to discuss the suitability of using a non-public organization as your partner. If you are not already employed or volunteering in such an organization, seek out a local agency or access one over the internet. If you have any questions about your suitability for this course, please ask us how to contact the course instructor directly before the course start date.
  2. Regular access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.
  3. University-level research, writing and critical thinking skills.


This course is eligible for the StrongerBC future skills grant. To register using this grant please first review your eligibility and then select the StrongerBC future skills grant fee type below. 


Richard began his career in 1980 as an archaeologist.  He excavated historic and prehistoric sites in the western Canadian arctic, the Hudson Bay Lowlands and southern Ontario.  Over eight years Richard did almost all the jobs one can do on an archaeological project (excavator, area supervisor, surveyor, lab technician, and material culturalist).  He is still a licensed archaeologist in Ontario.

In April, 1987 Richard started with the Fort York Archaeology Program running the archaeology field lab.  Eighteen months later he started working for the City of Toronto full-time as their museum registrar, and did that for 22 years. He was seconded to a curatorial position in 2010 as Historian for the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 researching a number of exhibitions for the inauguration of the new visitor center for Fort York National Historic Site.  In 2014 Richard was made historian for the Museums and Heritage Services unit (MHS). 

Richard has been with the Cultural Resource Management program since 2005 teaching this course in collections management and, more recently has also began teaching Curatorial Planning and Practice (onine), and Care of Collections (face-to-face on location).  Additionally, Richard has been teaching an undergraduate course in archaeological collections management at Wilfrid Laurier University since 2015. 

Throughout his career Richard has been involved in other projects and organizations as his talents, time and interests allowed, including serving on the boards of the Ontario Museums Association and the St. George’s Society of Toronto; peer review for various Canadian government initiatives and book reviews for professional publications; and, mentoring more interns than he can comfortably recall.

What participants are saying

“I believe all of the course components: instructors’ commentaries, forums, exercises, activities and assignments work together to make for a wonderful learning experience. The course was invaluable! I learnt a lot in a relatively short span of time.”

“Good blend of practical skills with philosophical discussion. Imparts good understanding of accepted and standard practices but also encourages new thinking and realistically addresses changes in the profession.”

“Excellent coverage of the main features and concepts of collections management. The creation of a collections policy, a useful skill and experience to have.”

“Covers a lot of topics in this field that collections managers need to know about.”

“Broad cross-section of participants helped with understanding the challenges that are unique to each organization.”

“[This course has] relevance and direct applicability.”

“[The best part is] being able to interact with other museum professionals to learn from one another's experiences and knowledge. I find this to be a very beneficial way to learn.”

“[Instructor Richard Gerrard’s] expertise in his field and life experience were very helpful and he provides a very practical and honest approach to the material and the issues covered in the class.”

“[Instructor Richard Gerrard is] very knowledgeable about the subject matter.”

“Excellent anecdotes and professional experience in the field. I learned a lot from [instructor Richard Gerrard’s] experiences and I really enjoyed hearing what he had to share.”

“[Instructor Richard Gerrard] treated his students with respect and more as peers in many cases than as students.”


Online format using the learning management system (LMS), Brightspace, over a 14-week period, requiring approximately 12-14 rigorous hours of coursework per week.

Students login to the course and communicate with the instructor and fellow students via the Brightspace course site. This course follows an asynchronous delivery model.

This course will use online text-based notes and/or PowerPoint presentations, forum-based discussions, individual and individual assignments, and print and online readings/resources. In addition to completing assignments and activities, participants are expected to contribute meaningfully and frequently to forum-based discussions weekly. The mode of contact with the course instructor is via email or online forums.

Attendance, participation and decorum

Whether registered as a credit or non-credit participant, you will be expected to:

  • login to the course website on a regular basis throughout each week
  • participate in class activities, and thoughtfully and articulately contribute to course forum discussions by reflecting upon assigned readings and professional experiences
  • submit course assignments on scheduled course deadline dates
  • notify course instructors of any personal leaves throughout the term that will affect class participation well in advance
  • notify the instructor of any situation that will compromise the timely submission of an assignment or activity to work out alternate arrangements well in advance of due date
  • provide work throughout the course that is effectively organized and researched, professionally presented, and well-written
  • interact with colleagues, program staff, and course instructors in a respectful and positive manner at all times

Note: if a student has not signed into the course site by 100% tuition refund drop date, the Program Office reserves the right to withdraw the student from the course. Participation in online courses is mandatory and online interactions are the most important part of the course learning experience. As such, “catching up” at such a late date without prior approval—and make-up scheduling by the instructor and/or program—is impossible

Privacy Considerations

In some cases, participants and the course instructor may discuss examples that reflect an actual situation, institution, or community. In order to create an environment where all feel free to discuss and learn from situational issues, it is asked that everyone respect the confidential nature of the institutions and communities being discussed.

While the site is password protected, note that email and course discussion forum groups are never entirely confidential and are subject to freedom of information and privacy legislation. Your use of these communication tools should reflect the public nature of the media.

We ask that you respect the copyright of any and all course materials and note that these are circulated and shared for the purposes of this course only. Further reproduction is strictly prohibited.

Personal information at the University is protected by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the University’s Protection of Privacy Policy.

Disclosure of personal information to vendors, systems or services storing or accessing that information outside of Canada is restricted by s.30.1 of FIPPA.

Instructors may use a variety of educational technology in a course including internet-based technologies, or web-based applications, cloud services and social media. The use of technology is intended to enhance and/or deliver students’ education and is part of a students’ engagement at the University. Some of these technologies may collect, use, disclose, and store student and instructor personal information outside of Canada.

In some courses, instructors may require students to use educational technology and social media which stores personal information outside of Canada, in such cases, instructors will try to provide options (such as using an alias to register).

If students do not want their personal information stored or accessed outside of Canada, in certain rare instances, courses may not be available to them. If the course is required for the completion of a degree, alternatives will be provided.

Course Credit

1.5 units at UVic or may be taken on a non-credit basis.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have not already been admitted to UVic, you cannot take this course(s) for credit. Program Application Deadlines are as follows:

September entry:  July 1
January entry:  November 1
May entry: March 1

However, if you had applied to the program before the application deadline, you will be permitted to register in the course(s).

Registration details

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Info you should know:

Continuing Studies statement on use of educational technology

This course will require the use of Zoom and may use other education technology such as internet-based applications, cloud services, or social media. In order to complete this course you will be required to either consent to the disclosure of your personal information outside of Canada to enable use of these technologies, or work with the Division of Continuing Studies to explore other privacy protective options (such as using an alias or nickname).