Catalogue rules

The collections of museums gather selected objects to be remembered by future generations. However, in order for it to happen effectively it is essential that the collections are well organized and recorded.

In order to catalogue information on each musical instrument at the Virtual Museum of Musical Instruments, we have developed a set of rules, based on the inventory rules defined by the Lisbon Music Museum. [1]

The information about the instruments were researched through various sources – specialized dictionaries, ancient catalogues of the Delgado de Carvalho Instruments Museum and books about musical language – and gathered in index files.

These files contain joint fields in this document on the following sections: identification and general data of each instrument; information regarding the origin; item’s detailed description; observations and contextualization about the instrument in general; item specific data such as the manufacture date, authorship, place of manufacture; data about restoration; general notes; audiovisual records; bibliographical references.

Identification / General Data

Name of Instrument:
General and current denomination by which instrument is known

Additional Names:
Other designations for the instrument found in different sources. According to source indication.

Categories related to the Hornbostel & Sachs System. [2]
Ex: Idiophones, Membranophones, Chordophones, Aerophones

Instrument classification according to the Hornbostel & Sachs System.

Place where the instrument is stored, including the acronym, disposition and numbering at proprietor museum.
321.3 [classification H&S]
I15 [local record – instrument’s sequential number]
Shelf 11 [shelf]

Inventory Code:
Sequential number at the Virtual Museum of Musical instruments. Each item of the museum receives a label of alkaline paper, with this code, applied with a cotton string.
Ex: MIVI001

Joint Elements:
Joint elements are those accessories that accompany or are part of a musical instrument. These sets must have the same inventory number, followed by a numeric code able to differentiate each integral part. The code must obey the instrument’s height. For example, in the case of a percussion set, numbering must start from the instrument with the sharpest pitch to the lowest.

Examples of sets: Drum kit, percussion set of instruments, flute box and flute, accessories of a trumpet.
Numbering example for a two piece set

System Number:
Number from the data base of the proprietor museum.
Ex: 750352


Informs the means of acquisition of the item by the proprietor museum.
Ex: Donation from João Baptista da Motta and Rodolfo Bernardelli


Instrument’s description always from general to particular, in a simple and concrete way, including traces of its physical constitution, decorative and technical elements.

Observations/to learn more:

Contextualization and curiosities about the instrument.

Item data

Indicates the instrument’s manufacturing date.

When it’s not possible to set an accurate date, the following rules shall be used:

  • For approximations, use the abbreviation for ‘circa’. Ex: c. 1877
  • For Centuries dating:
      • First half         1 to 50
      • Second half    26 to 50
      • Beginning of Century 1 to 10
      • Middle of the Century 40 a 60
      • End of Century           90 a 100
  • When it’s not possible to determine a date, use the expression ‘undetermined’.

Manufacturer / Author:
Indicates the name of the artisan, luthier, builder and/or manufacturer. When it’s not possible to identify the author, the expression ‘unidentified’ must be used.
The main sources used to define the Field of authorship of a musical instrument or its attribution are: signature, previous catalogues, inscription, mark.

Place of manufacture:
Place – country, city or locality – where the instrument was built.
The main sources used in this Field for the attribution of place of manufacture are: signature, previous catalogues, inscription, mark.

The type(s) of material(s) used in the instrument’s manufacture and decoration must be defined.

The measurement of musical instruments obeys internationally defined patterns.

Weight unity: grams (g)
Measurement unity: centimeters (cm)

L=Maximum or total length excluding mobile parts on top (reeds, mouthpieces, staples) and base (buttons, cello’s end pins). When the instrument is trapezoidal as the dulcimers, two measures are taken: C1=largest side and C2=smallest parallel side.
W=Maximum width. When the instrument is trapezoidal two measures are taken: S1=largest side and S2=smallest parallel side.
H=Maximum or total height excluding mobile parts, feet (harp pedestals).
D=Maximum external diameter, in cases of instruments with circular or semi-circular bodies.

Instrument top: mouthpiece, reed
Instrument’s base: pavilion, tube’s exit (even on the tuba)
Front surface: the surface which is furthest from the player
Rear surface: the surface closest to the player
Wholes and keys: named after the instrument’s base, being designated by the note produced over the fundamental when the key is triggered.

State of Conservation:
Inform the state of conservation according to the table below:

  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Middling
  • Bad

The following should be taken into account:

  • Whether the instrument can or cannot be played.
  • Whether the instrument is complete
  • State of component materials
  • Infestations
  • Whether there were piece substitutions
  • Whether there have been structural repairs

Marks and Inscriptions:
Different marks and inscriptions identify the origin of instruments: label, metallic plate, incision, embedment, monogram, date.
The marks and inscriptions can be posterior to the instrument’s construction and such occurrence must be duly notified.


Indicates the interventions made during the restore process.
The elaboration of a technical drawing by specialists is an important action, aiming the instrument’s preservation and recovery as well as it scientific study.

Restoration Date:
Date of restoration.

Person responsible for the restoration.


Additional information about the instrument.

Audio visual records

Images of the instrument:
It is recommended to take at least three pictures with a neutral background and Studio light. Films can also be made showing different angles of the instrument.
The advised standard file for images is jpeg format, which must be saved in a file with the record number of the item, followed by a sequential number.
The advised standard file for films is mpeg format, which must also be stored in a file with the same Record number.
It is advisable to record images of the instrument before and after the restoration.

The images must contain the following metadata:

  • Document id: we adopt for each image file a nomenclature that contemplates the following data: (1) name of the virtual museum of musical instruments, (2) name of the collection, (3) category, (4) instrument number on the virtual museum of musical instruments database and the (5) image/vision number. EX: mvim_midc_ae_001_001.jpg
  • Date of creation: month and year
  • Person responsible for the creation:
  • File format:
  • Dimension in pixels:
  • File size:
  • Lighting system:
  • Color depth/ tonal resolution:
  • Linear resolution: dpi or ppi:
  • The color profile must follow the ICC pattern: Adobe RGB
  • Capture software
  • Process software

Whenever possible, from the instrument itself, in case it is under the condition of being played, or assigned from a historical audio of a similar instrument or a sampler.

It is elucidative to include examples of videos from instruments of the collection or from similar specimens.

Bibliographical References:

References used for the elaboration of the index file must be recorded.

Record Creation, Updating and Validation:

Indicate people responsible for the records, and the date of creation, updating and validation.


Musical Notation:
For the musical notation the ideal is to use the notation in full, with numeric indication of octaves.
Ex: mi3, lá4/E3, A4



[1]  TRINDADE, Maria Helena. Normas de Inventário: Instrumentos Musicais. Instituto dos Museus e da Conservação, 2011.

[2] HORNBOSTEL, Erich M. von & SACHS, Curt Sachs. Systematik der Musikinstrumente. Ein Versuch, vol. xlvi, 1914, pp.553-590. Classification of Musical Instruments: Anthony Baines and Klaus P. Wachsmann (trad.). The Galpin Society Journal, vol. 14, Mar., 1961, pp. 3-29.