CMS Data Can Prove the Value of Collection Work

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

February 17, 2021

This is the final post in the How to Put Museum CMS Data to Work series. We covered the “what” and “where” of Collections Management System (CMS) data in The Museum CMS Data You Need to Pay Attention To post. Last week we got into the details of how CMS data can support decision-making, program growth, and program success in How to Make Museum CMS Data Work for You post. This week we’re bringing it home with how to use CMS data to prove the value of collection work.

Numbers Talk

While narratives on how museums are impactful do sway supporters of museums, they’re not always enough. Data on objects, museum, visitors, and donations are all numbers museums refer to when we speak about the value of a collection. And we can use CMS data in the same way. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the museum’s digital presence is just as important as its physical presence, and that means we need to start using our CMS data when we speak about collection value.

Questions of the Data to Calculate Collection Value:

  • What CMS objects and exhibits resonated with a current event?
  • What CMS objects and exhibits are perennial favorites?
  • What CMS objects and exhibits rose to popularity and surprised you?
  • What CMS objects and exhibits supported local school curriculum?
  • What CMS objects and exhibits were used or cited in local tourism and news outlets?
  • Where are your viewers coming from geographically to visit the CMS?
  • How old are the CMS viewers?
  • Can online donations be traced back to a CMS visit? Related: How many donations and in what amounts come in online?
  • What are viewers visiting the CMS to see?
  • Where are viewers lingering and spending time in the CMS?

How to Use the Data You Have

Once you’ve had a chance to become familiar with the data, observe, compare, parse, and test it; it’s time to use it. CMS data can help you make the case for your work as a collection expert, as well as speak to the value of collection work as a whole. Here are a few ways you can use the data:

  • Track and quantify your success and use it in your position evaluations and resume
  • Department and project reports to display success
  • Letters to your representatives to demonstrate need
  • Grants and donors to establish success and highlight opportunity with new funding requests
  • How staff hours can translate into driving viewership and income

Addition Reading

I’m a huge proponent of data-driven decision-making so, of course, I’ve written about data before. Check out these posts for more ideas on how to make data work for you!
Resources for Museums on How to Identify and Articulate Value

The Top 4 Things a Museum Needs to Know About the Digital Visitor

Prioritize These Remote Museum Projects During Coronavirus—Part 1

The End of Net Neutrality & The Museum Digital Visitor

Museum Advocacy: How to Write a Letter to Congressional Representatives

Why You Need a (Better) CMS

Using Metrics and Stories: What is Measurement? (by Stephen Abram)


Hopefully this miniseries has helped you become familiar with the basics of museum CMS data and how you can put it to work for you. Whether it’s aiding in decision-making, helping you make a funding case, or advocating for the value of your work—the data is there to help you. Use it.

Is there a way you’re using CMS data that I didn’t cover? I want to hear about it! Please email me at to share how you make your museum CMS data work for you.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, Ms. Woody is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “How to Put Museum CMS Data to Work” on February 24th. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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