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Is it a Frisbee? Issues in Cross-Indexing Advertising Media

by Jennifer Toelle, Registrar, Smoky Hill Museum, Salina, Kansas on

Plate, CommemorativeA few years ago, I gave an intern a routine assignment to take inventory of our collections. Within 15 minutes, the intern returned with a box of writing devices with advertisements of local businesses. The intern proceeded to ask a series of questions. Should these be listed as pens or pencils and not as a premium? What is a premium?  As a result this discussion led to deeper questions regarding the importance of advertising objects.

This summer while on vacation, I found myself dining in an Oklahoma restaurant. The walls of the restaurant were covered in premium décor. The majority of the premiums hung on the walls were signs, but there were other objects such as clocks and calendars. As the server approached the table with my children’s food, my natural instincts on “The Way We Word” went into hyperspeed despite the fact I was on vacation. They delivered the children’s food on an upside down frisbee. In one moment, this object began to serve many functions! It was certainly an interesting way to serve food. The frisbee also contains an advertising inscription for the restaurant. It also serves as souvenir from my family vacation. If this object landed in a museum collection, there are many object term choices. Options for terms can be found in a multitude of hierarchical categories ranging from Recreational, T&E for Materials and Communication Artifacts.

It is highly likely that disagreements may occur on what object term should be assigned. One staff member may be inclined to assign the term “frisbee” while another deems “premium” more appropriate. In terms of its provenance, one may select a term from the sub-classifications of eating vessels and/or memorabilia. None of these terms identified are completely incorrect, rather it brings us to an important discussion on cross-indexing.

Premiums generally present an issue, because these objects are generally a multipurpose object which prompts the need for cross-indexing. According to Nomenclature 3.0, objects considered as premiums may also use terms from other classifications for premiums that service other functions as well. In previous editions of Nomenclature, users were encouraged to choose one term, while today’s realities and computer systems allow us the capabilities to search multiple fields assign more than one term when the need presents itself.

Still in doubt? Be sure to check out the introduction section of Nomenclature 3.0 on how to address cross-indexing concerns.

Please provide some feedback on how do you deal with cross-indexing at your institution?

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