Each museum object is individually numbered to identify and distinguish it from all other objects in a collection. All the information relating to an object is filed and accessed using this unique number.
Writing a number directly on an object is the most secure method of labelling but it is not always the most suitable. See Collections Trust Spectrum resources for guidelines on marking and labelling methods. A record photograph of each object, including its correct registration number, provides additional security.
Historically, a mixture of numeric and alphanumeric sequencing was used at Towneley from the 1950s. Each object was assigned to one of a specific collection group such as oil painting, watercolour, ceramics, furniture etc. with the object number beginning with one or more alphabetic characters indicating that collection group.
The simple guiding rule is that if all parts of a multi-part object will always be displayed together then it will be recorded as a single object with one object number. Groups of objects that might be displayed separately, for example a cup and saucer will each have its own object number and object record. Each object will be labelled with its own object number.
There may still be the need to mark or label individual parts of a multi-part object where the parts might easily become separated when packed up for moving. One particular example is the labelling of a ceramic jar and its cover. Each part may be labelled with an alphabetic suffix added to the common object number, for example po690a and po690b. In such a case the brief description should make this clear and add the alphabetic suffix group in parentheses, for example (a-b), at the end of the brief description.
Historically, for a few years in the 1970s, some objects were given a number recorded in the day books, beginning with the year number. This has been retained in the case of the textile collection and also for some objects in the postcard collection, for example "pc1973.37.21". In order to avoid any confusion, since January 2015, postcards added to the collection will have object numbers following on in the sequence "pc2015" where "pc2015" is an administrative record indicating the start of the new sequence. In the same way, if anything is added to the textile collection, the sequence will continue from "T2016.1" .