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Sandra Vanderwarf – Barcoding the Memory of Humankind: An Effort to Improve Security of Mongolia’s Cultural Heritage Collections

/Sandra Vanderwarf – Barcoding the Memory of Humankind: An Effort to Improve Security of Mongolia’s Cultural Heritage Collections
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In recent years, there have been several cases of unlawful possession and sale of Mongolian cultural heritage–most notoriously of the T. Baatar dinosaur by an American fossil hound, but also, regretfully, of artifacts by staff at Mongolian institutions. In response to these cultural heritage crimes, a strict inventory system has been put in place which requires that all museum collections be inventoried every 4 years, and in some cases every 2 years.

While this repetitive inventory is necessary to prevent theft, it’s costly, time consuming, and potentially damaging to the collections because of repeated handling. The funds, personnel and time spent on inventory could be better spent on research, exhibitions, and other preservation projects if a more efficient inventory system were introduced. Barcodes have become an industry standard in achieving efficient inventory systems and have been shown to drastically reduce the amount of time needed to complete inventories. In this talk, Sandra discusses the challenges and successes of prototyping a barcode inventory system at the National Museum of Mongolia.

The project is co-sponsored by the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation and the American Center for Mongolian Studies.