Evaluating and selecting the right collections management software for your organization is a critical first step in the process and one that should not be taken lightly. As collections management consultants, we frequently collaborate with clients and software developers to introduce or upgrade existing CMS solutions. In our experience, the most effective changeovers begin with a structured and coordinated system selection process. Once the system is selected, a methodical approach to migrating existing data and processes can take place.
There are dozens of CMS options, hundreds of functions and applications, and limitless possibilities for customization. Don’t panic – and don’t assume that you need a comprehensive review or evaluation of every system on the market. Start with an in-house needs assessment before contacting vendors or looking into system specifics. To begin:
- Identify your requirements
- Determine budget/ cost
- Decide on commercial or open source
- Determine locally hosted or web based/ cloud-based
We’ve compiled a listing below of some additional online resources that can help you organize your plan.
Resources for Assessing and Selecting a CMS
Choose Collections Software
This listing allows you to evaluate software tools by comparing the features of leading CMS solutions.
Collections Management Software Criteria Checklist – 2012
Canadian Heritage Information Network
This worksheet includes nearly 500 descriptions of requirements that could be considered by an institution seeking to upgrade or acquire a CMS. The checklist is intended to help an institution define requirements and then select the software that is best suited to its needs.
At History Associates, we have also written advice on how to go about choosing a museum CMS:
“Bringing the Cloud into Focus: 5 Things to Consider when Selecting Cloud-Based Museum Collections Management Software”
History Associates Inc.
This white paper compares the pros and cons of a cloud-based CMS vs. traditional software (requires e-mail address to download).
“Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Collections Management System”
History Associates Inc.
This white paper offers a number of tips for making the selection and implementation process as smooth as possible (requires e-mail address to download).
“How Do We Select a Collections Management System?”
American Alliance of Museums, Museum Magazine, January/February 2013
This article, written by collections managers at History Associates, describes the CMS selection process and outlines areas for consideration as you plan your approach.
Author Renny Bergeron was a panelist at the 2014 Western Museums Association Annual Meeting in a session entitled “Where to Begin? Choosing a Collections Management Database.”