Collections Trust’s history stretches back to the 1970s when it began life as the Information Retrieval Group of the Museums Association. In 1977, this group became a limited company called the Museum Documentation Association. Since then, we have developed into the UK’s lead organisation for documentation and the management of information about collections.

The summary below lists the key points in our history:

image: Collections Trust at Duxford 1970-1980
  • The Museum Documentation Association (MDA) grew out of the work of the Information Retrieval Group of the Museums Association which created and designed a series of catalogue cards for describing objects in museums
  • The MDA is formed as a limited company in 1977
  • 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

images: CT staff

  • 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

image: Collections Trust

  • 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
image: CT staff 2000-2010
  • MDA publishes a series of Standards in Action which help museums interpret SPECTRUM
  • AdviceNet portal launches in 2002
  • Nick Poole appointed as Director of MDA in 2004
  • SPECTRUM 3.0 published in 2005
  • Collections Link website launched in May 2006
  • SPECTRUM 3.1 (revised and updated) published in 2007
  • MDA re-launches as the Collections Trust in April 2008
  • Dutch and Flemish versions of SPECTRUM are launched in Brussels and Rotterdam in 2008
  • BSI/Collections Trust Code of Practice for Cultural Collections Management (BSI PAS 197) published in 2009
  • Culture Grid, the UK museum and library aggregator is launched in 2009
image: CT badges 2010-present day
  • Collections Management Software Survey launched in 2010
  • Standards wiki launched in June 2011
  • SPECTRUM 4.0 incorporating Business Processes published in 2011
  • New version of Collections Link launched in 2011
  • Collections Trust moves to the Natural History Museum
  • First comprehensive open access dataset of public library information in the UK published in 2011
  • Find a Library platform launched in 2011
  • The annual OpenCulture Conference launched in 2011
  • Research into Digitisation Costs for European Cultural Heritage published in 2011
  • Hidden Treasures campaign launched in 2012
  • Joint Specification for Environmental Management (BSI PAS 198) published with the National Archives & BSI in 2012
  • ‘Put Your Library on the Map’ campaign in support of National Libraries Day, February 2013
  • EU-funded ENUMERATE project successfully completed in 2013
  • Collections Trust and SHARE East launched Collections Care syllabus and short films in 2013
  • German version of SPECTRUM launched in 2013
  • Portugal and Brazil become SPECTRUM National Partners in 2013
  • EU-funded Partage Plus digitisation project successfully completed in 2014
  • Europeana Food and Drink project launched in 2014

The history of 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.

Collections Trust alumnus Andrew Roberts talks about the history of MDA, which became Collections Trust, in this video as part of the Ideas for Museums series: