Working with a military focused collection can be a daunting task. Awards can be in the form of ribbons and/or medals, patches can mean multiple things, and the list goes on. The most challenging thing, however, can be an inconsistent method of naming objects over the years, which in turns affects queries and reports when working with Nomenclature 3.0. The fix is relatively straightforward, however, and easy to do if the collection is small enough. If it’s a bigger collection, like the one here at the Sullivan Museum and History Center, it does become a longer-term project, but the end result is a wealth of knowledge that can be shared interdepartmentally and expand research opportunities.


Bronze Star Award Medal

For the sake of this blog, let’s take a look at military medals and ribbons. The majority of the time, these go hand-in-hand and are for all intents and purposes, the same thing, an award for service. This is especially true when a collection, for example, has not only a Bronze Star medal, but also the Bronze Star ribbon more commonly seen on a uniform.

The primary term would therefore be “Award.” This could get confusing when you also consider that many collections have what are also awards that have nothing to do with the military. Nomenclature 3.0’s three-part (primary, secondary, and tertiary) naming allows for the entries of names such as “Bar, Ribbon,” “Medal,” “Decoration of Honor,” or “Stripe, Service” to be acceptable alternatives, and can better differentiate the specific awards in a collection.

In PastPerfect, the collections software used here at the Sullivan Museum and History Center, we have taken the approach to use “Medal” when referring to the award medals and “Bar, Ribbon” for the ribbons if unattached to a uniform. This is the best system for us given the sheer volume of academic and commemorative awards we have in the collection.


Bronze Star Award Medal

To perhaps aid in the research of a military collection, we have decided to add the name of the award as the Title for the object and list it in the description as well, just in case there are multiple awards on the same uniform. This has helped us a number of times search our records better, but our main task now is to make sure that anything from the original map into the database has a consistent name across the board, i.e. a Bronze Star is a Bronze Star and not another obscure name.

Consistent naming and organizing across the board can and will make a collection easier to search and manage, but as always, if you have any questions, please reach out to us and let us know your thoughts, we welcome and encourage them in fact!