Ask Me Anything (AMA): How to Migrate Data into a New Museum CMS

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

January 24, 2024

Following up on the “Ask Me Anything: How to Prepare for a New CMS” webinar, this post answers questions we received regarding the testing and refining that ensure smooth data migration.  

Our thanks to everyone who sent in questions! Your participation helps us craft future content that is of the most use to you, our colleagues.

Today’s post focuses on how to successfully migrate into a new museum Collections Management System (CMS). Specifically, testing and refining in order to ensure a smooth data migration.

Q.What should we prepare ahead of time to ensure successful migration into a new system?

This question helps us to focus on the “nuts and bolts” of data migration into the new museum CMS. The first part to consider is “Where is the data going?”. 

Part 1: Consider Where the Data is Going

The very first step is to determine where the collection data will go in the new CMS. This means the identification of fields and functions, required fields, standards to follow, and a mapping of your data from the location in the old CMS to the new.

During part 1, identify the following:

  • Document fields and functions 
  • Identify what fields are required 
  • Establish standards 
  • Create a data map

Once we know where the data should go, the next part is testing and refining our process of actually migrating the data into the new system.

Part 2: Test and Refine

Testing is perhaps the most critical piece to have in place in order for a successful data migration. Testing can be as small or as large as you’d like it to be, and as long or as short as you need it to be. The important part is that there’s at least some testing for the majority of your data in order to have the opportunity to make corrections and refine your approach for the official migration. 

  • Perform a small test migration 
  • Identify areas of the data that may not migrate correctly
  • Make a plan to cleanup non-standard data
  • Perform a larger trial migration

Whether you’re working with a CMS vendor or not, a data map will be incredibly valuable as you move forward in the final stages of implementing your new CMS.

Q. Is there any information you recommend NOT migrating to the new system?

There is, of course, data in our systems that could be considered “junk” data. Perhaps it’s outdated, inaccurate, or insensitive. Or, perhaps, it no longer serves a valuable management or access purpose. There are a few pieces of data you may wish to leave behind—meaning you don’t have to migrate it to the new system. For example:

  • Data that no longer holds meaning, is out of date, or incorrect
  • Extensive audit logs 
  • Records created for items not in the collection
  • Old vocabularies 
  • Donor, volunteer, membership, or other information

The disposal of data relics is merely a suggestion. If you’re unsure, you can always migrate the data for future assessment. Depending on the data type and information it may be worth marking it as an internal note and sending it to a designated field that can be reviewed and actioned or cleared out—depending on the verdict.


As the conductor of data from one system to another, the ability to view concurrent phases at both a broad and detailed level are important for the job. While it’s a large task, it’s also very doable—especially if you have the opportunity to test and refine your data migration process. This is also an area where self-learning is an avenue to pursue thanks to the sheer amount of “how to” resources that are available. The important first step is to dive in.

Additional Reading

This is part of an Ask Me Anything series, a capstone to months’ worth of posts and webinars. For more details on the content we’ve covered, you may find the following Think Clearly posts of interest: 

Create a Plan for Museum Data Cleanup

Document Museum CMS Fields and Function

Craft Museum Workflows That Include the CMS

How to Chart a Course Toward a Better Museum CMS 

How to Prepare for a New Museum CMS

How to Prepare for Museum Data Migration

Items Required for Successful Data Migration

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. She has authored several titles published by Lucidea Press, including Museum Digital Projects and You. Where to Begin? Rachael is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and a popular presenter.

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