Manuals, Documentation, and Associated Materials

   Critically Endangered small

Manuals that support physical, born-digital, and hybrid-digital museum objects, including technical manuals and that may contain diagrams, images, videos and more. Manuals may include those specifically created for the object, and/or from the supplier or manufacturer (and may exist for the entire object, or for each component part). Covered here is other documentation critical for the management, preservation, access, and display of collections objects, including conservation records. Associated materials (such as sidecar or other technical files) can provide insight into the digital content held in the collection. Encompassed in this entry is both information for internal use, supporting outgoing loans, as well as an information source for current and future researchers.

Digital Species: Museum and Gallery

New Rescoped Entry

Consensus Decision

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


Manuals created for the object and/or from the supplier or manufacturer; conservation records and other forms of documentation.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor documentation; lack of preservation planning; held in proprietary file formats.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; preservation capability; open source or commonly used file formats.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 under ‘Digital Materials in Museums and Galleries’ and previously rescoped in 2021 to ‘Supporting Digital Materials for Museums and Galleries’.

The 2023 Bit List Council superseded the entry, splitting it into six discrete entries as the scope of the single entry was too broad to provide the guidance needed. The recommendation to break this entry down was also made by the 2021 Jury, as the types of digital collections content in museums can be vast and offer particular risks in museum and gallery contexts. For museum objects (including physical, born-digital, and hybrid-digital) a manual for the object may be critical to being able to provide access to, display, and/or maintain, regardless of whether the object is being retained in a museum collection as a 'working' or 'non-working' object, which can be dependent on the types of materials the object is constructed from. For complex objects - physical and digital - there can be a significant dependency on these manuals and similar documentation. The extreme result of not having access to a manual may be that the object is unable to be maintained or displayed in the future. Associated materials may provide technical insight for both internal use and for researchers. For certain researchers, manuals and documentation may provide critical insight, and be of more value to the research than the object itself.

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