Many museums rely on interns and volunteers for data entry, cataloguing and as docents. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming is no different. With a campus that houses five museums and a research library, managing the collection of western objects, papers and research materials, photographs and art is a tall order, and requires a team of well-trained people supported by excellent tools.
Many of The Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s interns are university students hoping to make their careers in museums or archives, and the Center of the West team is committed to offering them a positive educational experience that includes hands-on time with the collections. It’s critical that interns be well trained, but with tenure of just a few months, nobody wants to spend most of that time learning how to do data entry. When it came time to move to a new collections management system, the Center’s major goals for the system included:
- Minimal training requirement
- Integration with existing IT projects and architecture
- Increased accessibility for staff and end users
Argus addresses these goals. With Argus, learning to use the system itself is easy; it’s intuitive and simple, freeing up time to work with artifacts. Training that used to take half an hour or more is reduced to just a few minutes, so both museum and temporary staff can focus on other aspects of curation, museum management and service to patrons.
An important element of the Buffalo Bill Center’s operations is partnership between the curation staff and the IT department, so they needed a system that easily integrates with their existing IT systems and is flexible enough for IT staff to easily adapt it to their needs, also without a training burden.
While the Buffalo Bill Center staff’s use of Argus is primarily behind the scenes, the IT department reaches into the system to integrate content with the public website, and via gallery kiosks used by volunteer docents to support their activities with museum visitors. The combined elements of the system result in operational efficiency; great partnership between departments; rewarding volunteer opportunities, and increased accessibility and productivity for museum staff, and are providing an educational, entertaining experience for visitors.
If selected and used correctly, the museum collections management system has the power to positively impact museum staff work and increase digital user enjoyment.
Rachael Cristine Woody’s book How to Select, Buy, and Use a Museum CMS helps you find the best collections management system for your museum.
Successful museum CMS selection includes identifying and prioritizing CMS specifications, and exercising due diligence through testing and vetting
Selection of a museum collections management system involves understanding stakeholder requirements and developing specifications for the CMS