There is such a thing as too much documentation!

via pixabay, openvectorgraphicsThis may come as a shock to Rupert Shepherd and all the other folks who support the #MuseumDocumentation campaign on twitter. In fact, it was a shock for me, too. I have to elaborate a little bit to explain this:

It’s really, really hot in Southern Germany with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Until three weeks ago I would have stated with confidence that this doesn’t bother a dyed-in-the-wool museum professional. That my brain started humming “In the Summertime” by Mungo Cherry or some other summer hit of the last 40 years whenever I seriously tried to think something through should have given me a hint that the heat had an effect. But as I already wrote a while ago a registrar’s mind is a wicked thing, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Then it happened. I sent a chapter of my upcoming book about managing unmanaged collections to a friend who offered to cram reading and commenting on my writing efforts into her already tight schedule. She’s always very polite with her comments, so this time she suggested that maybe I should think about replacing the word “documentation” or “document” in a few instances in the following paragraph:

“As you see by these examples, your documentation strategy will look different every time, because the foundation of a good documentation strategy is to consider all circumstances that play a role in this process. It is also important to recognize that ”documentation strategy“ doesn’t mean to define a certain set of fields you will fill in your data base and totally ignore that there is other useful information contained in the objects that is worth being documented. A ”documentation strategy“ is seldom one single step after which all the documentation is done but more likely a set of steps where you first document what needs to be documented immediately and define later circumstances under which you will add further documentation. Be careful to define these ”later circumstances“, as they have the tendency of translating into ”never“ if not properly defined. In Example X it is the moment the online data base is online and the proper documentation is done by the volunteers (and preferably checked by a museum professional), in Example Y it is the time directly after the move. Preferably the order in which the objects will be documented after the move is already laid out in the documentation strategy.”

Yes, I managed to write “documentation” or “to document” 12 times in a paragraph with just 200 words! Apparently, it doesn’t make things clearer which is what documentation normally should do. I really shouldn’t write this stuff when the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F)…

I hope you all keep cool at those temperatures and manage your job well! Enjoy the summer!


Postscript: Oh no! Here it comes again! Alalalalalong…

This post is also available in Russian translated by Helena Tomashevskaya.


This post is also available in: German

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