Met Accession Numbers
One of the things that we’re doing with all the digitized things from the Met that are being uploaded to Thingiverse is including the accession number. What is this numbering system?
Don Undeen explained to me that the two digit numbers are how they started the documentation of things in the 1800′s and they had a Y2K problem after a hundred years. He also told me that there are a few duplicate accession numbers because the authority for doling them out wasn’t centralized back in the day. Bonus points for finding them in the museum! I’m guessing that every library scientist has a foible about their numbering system. I should also mention that they are called accession numbers because they document the time that they are accessible!
The Met’s site explains.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art assigns a unique accession number to each object it acquires. The first two or four digits of an accession number refer to the year that the object became part of the Metropolitan’s collection. The Museum was founded in 1870 and for the first 100 years of its existence two digits were used. Thus, the first item accessioned into the Museum has the number 70.1 because it was accessioned in 1870.
The accession number for Edgar Degas’s A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon?) is 29.100.128. The number 29 refers to the year 1929. The number 100 refers to the collection within which the painting entered the Museum. In this case, it is the Havemeyer Collection, comprised of almost 2,000 items, which came to the Museum in 1929. This particular object is number 128 in that collection.
The accession number for the Roman statue Old Market Woman is 09.39. The 09 refers to 1909, the year in which the statue entered the Museum’s collection. Because it does not have a collection number, we know that this item came to the Museum as an individual object.
In 1970, a century after the Museum’s founding, the style of accession numbers changed. It became necessary to differentiate the accessions of the Museum’s second century from those of the first. For example, the accession number for Vincent van Gogh’s Shoes is 1992.374. This painting was acquired by the Museum in 1992.
So basically they came up with their own version of the Dewey decimal system that worked for the museum. Very cool. I love hearing about the different ways that things are organized.
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