Citing Museum Objects

You found a really awesome object in a museum that you want to include in your documentation. That’s amazing! Good for you, finding that thing!

It doesn’t matter if it is an object, a painting, a sculpture, or some other piece of art – there is a way to cite it. I’m going to be looking at APA in this post, since it’s my citation method of preference (only I push my parentheticals into footnotes because I prefer them). I encourage you to look at your citation method of choice to see how to cite museum (or art) objects. If you run into problems, leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to help, or join us over on Cite Your Sh*t.

The basic layout for your citation is this:

Artist. (Date). Name of object. [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link

For the artist, use their surname and first initial, separated by a comma. Here’s an example.

Limosin, L. (1556). Henri d’Albret (1503-55), King of Navarre. [Enamel on copper]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Retrieved from:

If a piece of art (or an object) does not have a listed author, use this format: (followed by an example)

Name of object. (Date). [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link

The Lewis Chessmen. (c. 1150-1175). [Chess pieces carved from walrus ivory]. British Museum, London. Retrieved from:

As with all citations, the key is to give your reader enough information that they can find this. The URL is very important if you can point to the piece online, but if you’re taking your own pictures in a museum, this information is also important. I struggle with images taken at Chinese museums posted online that have no corroborating information regarding where they are from, let alone where they are currently housed.

For information on a label, use this format for your citation:

Label title [Museum exhibit label]. (n.d.). Name of Museum. City, State.

Since we’re talking about writing for the SCA, I’d say it’s reasonable to mention when you visited, or at least what exhibit the item was part of. This will take into account traveling exhibitions, which are often listed with their dates on a museum’s website long after they’ve left.

Happy documenting!

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Writing Documentation: Step Four, The Writing

It’s been awhile between posts in this series. Let’s summarize a bit, shall we?

Step One: You have a basic understanding of how to put communicate ideas and concepts in writing.

Step Two: You researched a Thing – who did the Thing, how they did the Thing, what the Thing was for, etc.

Step Three: You did the Thing, taking notes and pictures along the way.

Now you’re ready to share the Thing with others, which means writing up Documentation about the Thing – whether it’s meant to be printed out and sit alongside the Thing in a fair/competition/display or be published on your blog/website.

Getting Started

Documentation can be basic and brief, or it can be long and thorough. I tend to lean toward the latter when I sit down to write documentation. (Notes on the back of scrolls are a little different – I simply cite whatever extant I used as inspiration, the folio, date, and holding institution and call it good – but if I were to enter a C&I piece into a fair/competition, I would do a full write-up. Here’s a scribal-specific template!)

Try your very, very best no to wait until the night before an event to write/finish your documentation. This is the same advice you got when you were told not to wait until the night before to do your homework/write that research paper/etc. For a myriad of reasons, it’s best to get things done with ample time for editing, review, and printing physical copies. I’ve done the late-night dash to a Kinkos the night before an event I traveled several hours to in order to print off my documentation – it’s not a fun dash.

Gather up all your notes, files, pictures, etc. before you start writing. This is where the notebooks, or digital tools like Google Drive or Evernote can come in handy.

Let’s get to it!

Continue reading “Writing Documentation: Step Four, The Writing”

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Writing Documentation: Step Three, The Execution

Are you ready for Step Three?

You’ve got an idea of the Thing you want to do. You researched the Thing to get a better idea, and even to develop an understanding of how the Thing was done in period.

So now you have to Do the Thing.

Continue reading “Writing Documentation: Step Three, The Execution”

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Writing Documentation – Step One, The Basics

This is the first in a series of posts related to writing documentation. Click the category tag on this post to see them all.

Full disclosure: I was once a high school English teacher. Now I am a librarian. Writing, research, and writing about research are THINGS with me.

Documentation is all about writing. You’re writing what you learned about the Thing you did, both from a research and an execution standpoint. It’s a way to share more than just the finished item. You’re sharing the entire project journey through your documentation.

When you’re writing documentation, try to write in a clear, accessible style – imagine that you are explaining the Thing you did to someone who knows next to nothing about the Thing. For example, when I was writing my documentation on Han Dynasty silk shoes, I talked about the history of silk in China – and I cited my sources. I didn’t go into a lot of detail, because there have been entire books written about the history of Chinese silkworm cultivation and silk production, but I made sure that if the reader wanted to, they had a place to go to learn more.

And that’s the thing – make it easy on your reader. Organize your documentation so that it flows, and proof-read it for mistakes that snag the eye or cause confusion. Treat it like you’re going to publish the finished product – either as a blog post, academic paper, or some other online or print resource.

Even if your project isn’t the be-all and end-all version of something, treat it like a hundred people are going to look at it as a potential reference for their own project. Honestly? This is one of the reasons why I love the SCAdian Internet. If I’m starting out on a new project journey, one of my first steps is to see if someone else has already blazed a trail. I can learn from that person – what worked, what didn’t work, and what resources were helpful to them. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel.

Back when I was in college, I had a little spiral bound book that was a Sacred Text for all English majors – The Beacon Handbook. It’s a great little book that is easy to use and answers pretty much any question you may have about:

  • writing mechanics;
  • style; and,
  • format.

The Beacon is what taught me that it is a Right and Proper Thing to put semicolons at the end of items in a bulleted list that are part of a sentence, along with the ” and,” before the last item.

But the Beacon isn’t the only writing guide out there – find one that you like. Look for writing guides at your local library. Ask your favorite English Teacher friend for their recommendations. Browse the bookstore’s offerings.

The last piece of basic advice I can give is to write about your project from the start. Keep an A&S journal. This can be a physical notebook, a blog, or even a series of posts on social media. You’ll be thankful for this record of your process, pictures you took and shared, resources you looked at, and notes you took when it comes to writing your formal documentation.

I’ll leave you with a tease of future links to the rest of the blog posts in this series:

Writing Documentation – Step Two, The Research

Writing Documentation – Step Three, The Execution

Writing Documentation – Step Four, The Writing

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