While composing a recent post I searched for a reliable online definition for a museum Collections Management System, sometimes referred to as a CMS, here disambiguated from a Content Management System. I was surprised to find none readily available on any independently governed web site (unaffiliated with any institution or product/service vendor). This tool is at the core of a museum’s push to ‘go digital’. The term figures prominently in literature about managing information in museums. Therefore it deservers to be described, albeit superficially. So here, then, is my attempt at an explanation.
A museum Collection Management System is the software intended to manage information about a museum’s collections, avoid record duplications, and improve communication between the various departments. At the very heart of every CMS there exists a cataloguing system that contains record surrogates of the museum’s objects and images to illustrate them. Among the administrative, technical, and descriptive information contained in each record, there may also exist information about an item’s provenance, history, exhibition, preservation, restoration, loan, publications, copyright, etc. In most cases the CMS underpins the museum’s goal of making its collections available to the public electronically. It also supports the automation of collection management. For example, the Otago Museum tracks items in its collections automatically using RFID tags physically attached to works. The generated tracking data may be fed into the CMS and easily accessed during a collections audit.
Some of the popular Collections Management Systems include Adlib, MuseumPlus, and TMS. For a more comprehensive list of solutions that may be compared using a list of criteria, see the Collections Trust Software Survey 2012-1013.
How do you define a Collections Management System?
Swank, A. P. (2008). Collection Management Systems. Retrieved from http://www.rinascimento-digitale.it/documenti/collection-management-system.pdf