History

The Collections Trust’s history stretches back to 1977, when it was formed as a limited company called the Museum Documentation Association. The organisation began life as the Information Retrieval Group of the Museums Association. Since then, we have developed into the UK’s lead organisation for documentation and the management of information about museum collections.

The summary below lists the key points in the history of our organisation:

1970 – 1980

  • The Museum Documentation Association is formed as a limited company
  • The early team, led by Martin Porter, includes researchers Andrew Roberts (later head of MDA) and Richard Light
  • The MDA Computer Bureau is established in 1979 to provide data processing services for museums


1980 – 1990

  • The 1st edition of Social History and Industrial Classification (SHIC) is published in 1983
  • MDA expands into new offices at Lincoln House in Cambridge in 1986
  • The Museum Object Data Entry System (MODES) is launched in 1987 with immediate success
  • Wendy Sudbury is appointed Director of MDA in 1989


1990 – 2000

  • The MDA Data Standard is published in 1991
  • Cataloguing Made Easy is published in 1993
  • SPECTRUM: The UK Museum Documentation Standard is published in 1994
  • MDA and Leicester University jointly publish the video Missing Links – Labelling and marking museum objects in 1996
  • Also in 1996, the MODES Users Association is formed as a separate company from MDA
  • MDA moves again, this time to Jupiter House in Cambridge in 1997
  • The 2nd Edition of the SPECTRUM standard is launched in 1997
  • Louise Smith is appointed as Director of MDA in 1997
  • MDA launches a new corporate image and modernised logo in 1997
  • The SPECTRUM Adviser Network is launched in 1998
  • The 24 Hour Museum is launched in 1999


2000 – 2008

  • MDA publishes a series of Standards in Action which help museums interpret SPECTRUM
  • MDA launches AdviceNet portal in 2002
  • Nick Poole is appointed as Director of MDA in 2004
  • MDA launches 3-year Business Plan, with new corporate identity and strapline in 2005
  • The 3rd Edition of the SPECTRUM standard is published in 2005
  • Collections Link is launched in May 2006
  • An updated version of the 3rd Edition of the SPECTRUM standard is published in 2007


2008 – present day

  • MDA relaunches as the Collections Trust in April 2008.
  • Dutch and Flemish versions of SPECTRUM are launched in Brussels and Rotterdam
  • BSI/Collections Trust Code of Practice for Cultural Collections Management published
  • Culture Grid, the UK museum & library aggregator is launched in 2009
  • Version 4.0 of SPECTRUM is published incorporating Business Processes in 2011
  • Version 3 of Collections Link is launched in 2011
  • The Collections Trust moves again, to the Natural History Museum


The history of the Collections Trust is as much about the people who have worked with and for us as it is about the organisation. We would like to offer grateful acknowledgement to the staff of MDA and Collections Trust, past and present, who have worked so hard to develop and promote documentation in UK museums.