An inventory lists the objects in a location. With additional knowledge about the objects, the list can be organised to create a catalogue. The first catalogues at Towneley were exhibition catalogues for visitors viewing the loan exhibitions. These included listings of the fledgling museum contents but the best source of information on the growth of the museum in the early years is the minutes of the Art Gallery and Museum sub-committee published by the Town Council.
It was not until 1914 that an attempt was made to record all the museum contents in a permanent register. The register, labelled md2 , survives along with other archived museum documents in the Library. The contents were listed room by room but included some items not part of the permanent collections nor were all rooms listed. The contents were inadequately described and only the Old Burnley Room contents were listed in detail.
The room inventories were not updated after 1914, rather the book was re-used in June 1931 to create a catalogue of objects organised by collection type - oil paintings, watercolours, engravings, furniture etc. but many objects were listed simply as foreign. A duplicate including a donors index md3 was created at the same time. Both these continued to be updated until July 1932.
A fresh start was made in 1932 with a register of exhibits received for permanent collection , see accession registers. There are handwritten pages with room inventories dating from 1932 to 1944, including contents of store rooms archived as md6 .
Although no room inventories appear to exist for the period after 1944, there are inventories for Towneley Hall from the 19th century that are on loan from the Strachey family. The most detailed is an inventory dated 1871, written for the settlement of the Towneley estate by Charles Towneley (1803-1876). This lists all the paintings, sculpture and furniture in Towneley Hall room by room, with room names such as Chintz Dressing Room.