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Collector's Log: Documentation for your art

Caring for your collection extends beyond maintaining the physical condition of the objects. It is important to keep good object records and a collection history. This data will be invaluable for insurance purposes in case of theft or disaster. Be sure to create a folder for each object in your collection.

In your file, include the following items:

· color photographs of the object, including full-view and details—front, back, framed, unframed. Document multiple views of three-dimensional works.

· purchase date and price

· vendor data

· artist/maker information including life dates

· title of work

· detailed description of object’s subject matter or type of work

· date of work

· dimensions—framed and unframed for two-dimensional works. Overall, object, and base measurements for three-dimensional works.

· media and support data

· detailed description of object—include location of scratches, losses, dents, abrasions, and so on.

· copies of all conservation and appraisal reports

· text of inscriptions, markings, and labels

· ownership history (“provenance”)

· bibliographic information if your work is cited in any exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues, or catalogues raisonné

· exhibition and loan history

See the Getty website for information on protecting cultural objects through international documentation standards at

In the unfortunate event your artwork gets stolen, here are important resources:

International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) 500 Fifth Avenue, Suite 935 New York NY 10110 (212) 391-6234 Select the Collector's Corner link.

National Stolen Art File

Credit: Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life".
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