Caring For Your Treasures: Thieves & Dissociation

It's unfortunate, but sometimes things get lost. Whether the loss is from criminal activity or misplacing something, the results can be upsetting, to say the least. For this post, I’ve paired thieves and dissociation together because many of the ways to protect yourself from them are the same.


Dissociation is the disconnection or separation of something from something else. When it comes to our objects, this can manifest in a few ways. It could be losing part of the story, misplacing part of the set, or not keeping accurate records. In both the private home and the museum field, this can have devastating consequences. For instance, pictures and paintings with no names become orphans without family connections.


Losing part of the story can mean the object loses its value. I don’t necessarily mean its monetary value, but its sentimental significance. A personal example, I’ll share is these three pieces of Depression glass my mother owns.


While we were cleaning out the china cabinet and disposing items, I placed these pieces in the “discard pile.” My mother quickly took the pieces back. When I asked her why she wanted to keep these pieces, that did not match anything else she owned, she explained they were the only things she had left of her grandmother. I learned about the pieces, as well as a bit more about my great-grandmother that day. Without my mother present, the pieces may have been discarded, the stories dissociated. And recording information about your objects is also an opportunity to share that information with those around you.



It is critical to have an accurate record of your objects. An easy way to do this is create a chart (I’ve included an example below) to keep all your information in one place for easy reference. You don’t need to be a curator to describe your collection! Just write what you see and as much information about it that you know. It is also helpful to take photographs of the objects. Be sure to record:

  • Who owned it?

  • Dimensions (even if approximate)

  • What is the value? Has it been appraised?

  • Any maker's marks?

  • Where did it come from?

  • Who is depicted (in a painting or photograph)?

  • What is it made of?

As you record this information, it may be helpful to think, “Will a police officer be able to identify my object with the information I’ve given them?” or “Will my children know the significance of this piece?”


Once you record this information, keep it in a safe place. This may be with the object itself, such as inside a drawer, or with other records such as the appraisal, or in a safe. Having this information recorded can help authorities and with insurance claims in the unfortunate event of a robbery and help keep stories associated with the object.


There is no right or wrong way to record this information. Just pick a place to start, and begin!

Like this layout? Download a Word template of this worksheet here:

Personal Collections Worksheet Template
Download • 14KB

Robin Matty Curator of Collections


#history #collections #collectionscare #decorativearts #yourhistory #heirlooms #historicannapolis #curator #curatorscorner

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