Accession number (library science)

In libraries, art galleries, museums and archives, an accession number is a unique identifier assigned to, and achieving initial control of, each acquisition. Assignment of accession numbers typically occurs at the point of accessioning or cataloging. The term is something of a misnomer, because the form accession numbers take is often alpha-numeric.[1]

If an item is removed from the collection, its number is usually not reused for new items.

In libraries, this numbering system is usually in addition to the library classification number (or alphanumeric code) and to the ISBN or International Standard Book Number assigned by publishers.

Accession numbers are also used in botany, by institutions with living collections like arboreta, botanic gardens, etc., to identify plants or groups of plants that are of the same taxon, are of the same propagule type (or treatment), were received from the same source, were received at the same time.[2] Herbaria and other botanic institutions collecting non living material also use accession numbers.

An accession number may include the year acquired, sometimes the full date (as at the British Museum), and a sequential number separated by a period.[1] In addition, departments or art classifications within the collection or museum may reserve sections of numbers. For example, objects identified by the numbers 11.000 through 11.999 may indicate objects obtained by the museum in 1911; the first 300 numbers might be used to indicate American art, while the next fifty (11.301–350) might be used for African art. In some cases, they also include letters and other punctuation, such as commas, hyphens or slashes.[3]

In older institutions, simpler numbering systems are sometimes maintained alongside, or incorporated within, newer systems. Where the objects are unique, institutions normally need to retain the original number in some form as it will have been used in old references that are still of use in scholarship. In particular, collections of manuscripts use the prefix "MS", and many well known manuscripts are known by their old MS numbers, often incorporating a prefix for a particular collection within a library. These collections may be divided by former owners, as with several British Library "closed" collections, or by language, as with Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse (BnF MS Fr. 2643-6), indicating a two volume manuscript in French at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Hunter Museum Label
Every object in galleries has a label where you'll find that object's accession number.

See also


  1. ^ a b Witt, B.S., Whittfield, J.C., Stepansky, A.J. (2012) Pastperfect software for museum collections: Version 5 users guide. Retrieved from
  2. ^ Jebb, Matthew (1998) Cataloguing and Record keeping for Plant Collections Retrieved from
  3. ^ Reitz, J.M. (2004) Dictionary for library and information science. Libraries Unlimited. p. 6

Accession refers to the general idea of joining or adding to. It may also refer to:

Accession (property law)

Accession, the act of joining a treaty by a party that did not take part in its negotiations, as defined by article 15 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties


EU Accession

Accession to the throne; not to be confused with the later ceremony of Coronation

Accession Day, the day a monarch succeeds to the throne, and the anniversary thereof

Accession to elected office; inauguration

Accession number (disambiguation)

Accession number (library science), a catalogue number assigned to an object when it becomes part of a library or museum collection

Accession number (bioinformatics), a unique identifier given to a biological polymer sequence (DNA, protein) when it is submitted to a sequence database

Accession (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Accession Records, a record label created by Adrian Hates

Instrument of Accession (Jammu and Kashmir), by which that state joined the Dominion of India (1947)

Accession Day (Jammu and Kashmir), a public holiday

Accession number

Accession number may refer to:

Accession number (bioinformatics), a unique identifier given to a biological polymer sequence (DNA, protein) when it is submitted to a sequence database

Accession number (library science), the unique number given to each new acquisition as it is entered in the catalog of a library or museum

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