Where do I start? Basic artefact identification

There is no doubt that identifying objects is a tricky thing to do – whether it’s for a public enquiry or your own museum documentation - and certainly when you start out, it can seem overwhelming.

Yes, it does take years of practice, and sometimes it actually isn’t easy or possible to give answers… BUT there is a formula that you can follow to help.  By using it you can analyse the object, finding clues and shortcuts that will help you answer those four key questions:

What it is
What it was used for
What it is made of
How old it is

Each sub section guides you through this formula and has a short film where Steph Mastoris (Head of National Waterfront Museum, Swansea and lifelong member of SHCG!), discusses each element in greater detail.

Remember! This section is designed to be a ‘beginners guide to identifying objects’. It is literally a starting point.  There are lots more sources of help and information – websites, books, pamphlets and collections – on firstBASE.  Use the resources we suggest in this section as a starting point, and then explore firstBASE to take your knowledge further.


The Identifications formula