An Introduction to the Barcoding Project

5 December 2016

About the Project

In the spring of 2016, the University of Alberta Museums received a Collections Management Grant from the Museum Assistance Program (MAP) run by the federal government’s Department of Canadian Heritage to help fund a location tracking project. The project was conceived to reduce the time and effort required to manually enter all location changes in the central database, thus increasing efficiency and collection security. This project will see the creation and implementation of a barcoding system, and the integration of Axiell Move, an iOS application meant to facilitate barcode scanning and location tracking, with the Mimsy XG database. Mimsy XG, also an Axiell product, is the museum collections database that has been used by the University of Alberta Museums for nearly two decades.

Why Barcodes?

Barcodes have traditionally had a wide range of applications, from industrial to retail. For museums, barcodes are primarily used to remove human error from the location updates in a collections management system and reduce the time spent making them. Objects that are shelved, reshelved, relocated, loaned out, exhibited, or otherwise moved to require their exact location to be updated in the database as soon and as accurately as possible to reduce losses and errors. By having a system of barcoding in place, as well as the appropriate hardware and software to manage it, less time will be spent updating and managing locations, thus freeing up valuable time for staff.

What Will This Project Accomplish?

The pilot project, which is slated to wrap up at the end of April 2017, will see roughly 10% of the objects and 100% of the locations in two museum collections here on the University of Alberta campus barcoded. Two collections, the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection and the Meteorite Collection were chosen to best represent the array of object materials and environments that can be found at the U of A Museums. University of Alberta Museums staff will collaborate closely with the staff in each collection to ensure the new system fits their needs and to establish best practices. In conjunction with researching and implementing the barcoding in these collections, workflows and how-to guides will be created to ensure the continuation and completion of barcoding in the initial two collections as well as to assist in the adoption of this initiative in the remaining University of Alberta museum collections over time.

The Blog

This project blog will serve both as documentation of the process of developing a barcoding system in a museum collection and as a resource for other museum professionals considering implementing barcoding in their own institutions. Our initial research phase of this project exposed a lack of resources for museum-specific barcoding projects, and we hope to help fill that gap in accessible knowledge.


Barcoding Resources

Below is a list of online resources we found helpful during the research and implementation of our barcoding project. It is important to note that we are not affiliated with/do not endorse any of these particular manufacturers or distributors or brands or websites.


Barcoding in Museums


Labels and Ribbons

  • Choosing the Right Barcode Labels and Ribbon
    • An explanation of different printer and technology—very helpful in determining the best choices of hardware and material for what you are going to barcode. Previously mentioned, but also explains label materials.
  • Ribbon Calculations
    • Calculations to help you decide how many feet of ribbon you will need to print your barcodes.
  • Zebra Supplies Ribbon Datasheet
    • A comparison of the different ribbons offered by Zebra, including a handy comparison chart at the bottom.
  • ‘Cause I’m Tree, Tree Free
    • An explanation of what acid-free, lignin-free paper is and why it is important in a museum setting.