Determine the Most Effective Way to Capture Data for the Museum CMS

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

March 20, 2024

If you are a collection steward, your job is likely to involve the capture and creation of data as it relates to describing and managing the collections.

Last week we reviewed how to effectively get new data into your Collections. This is important because understanding how you can load data into your new CMS will dictate to some degree which data capture options are your best path forward. This week we’ll review common methods and approaches to data capture, and how they can support efficient work for you and your team. For today’s purposes, we’ll focus on data capture as it pertains to creating object records versus activity records (e.g. conservation, exhibition, loans, etc.).

Common Methods of Data Capture

For “data capture” we’re including all points of information about an object. In order to create an object record there are areas where we must gather information to capture or inform the creation of data for the record.

Two of the most common methods of data capture are:

  1. Laptop or mobile in-hand
  2. A spreadsheet

1. Method: Laptop or mobile in-hand

If your CMS is cloud-based it can be accessed via laptop. Some CMS options even come with an app for smart device usage. If either are available to you the CMS is portable and able to come with you into the collection spaces. As you’re capturing information about the objects you can do so directly into the CMS object record. This helps to maximize your time during data capture as the information is immediately entered into the record.

2. Method: A Spreadsheet

If your CMS is not portable or if you are capturing data in a place with no Wi-Fi access, it may be more advantageous to create a spreadsheet for data capture that you can translate into your CMS. This is where knowing how data can enter your CMS is important. For example, if your CMS supports spreadsheet import you want to make sure your spreadsheet is set up for accurate mapping.

Note: If your CMS is neither portable nor supports spreadsheet import, a spreadsheet can still be a helpful tool as it can serve as a central place for you to gather and review data before you translate into the CMS.

Common Approaches

Once you have a data capture method selected the last piece is to determine how you wish to scope the work. This is of particular importance if the number of items needing data capture is large. If the work can’t be completed in a few hours then it’s wise to consider your approach before you begin. The following are the most common criteria for how to scope data work:

  1. Focus areas
  2. Commonality

1. Approach: Focus areas

Sometimes it can be more effective to focus on an area of data capture to complete for all objects before moving to a different area of data capture. For example: You need to view and measure 24 different objects in order to capture their dimensions. This requires accessing the storage space, pulling the objects, and safely removing them from their storage containers. In this instance, it makes more sense to pull and measure all 24 objects at once before continuing on to any other area of data creation.

2. Approach: Commonality

The commonality approach offers a slightly different take on capitalizing on efficiencies. When breaking the objects up into groups, consider which have overlapping commonalities where information gathered or created for one object can be used to describe another. For example: the same artist studio created a selection of objects. To some extent the information you gather about their creation, how you describe them, etc., can be leveraged to help create all of their records at the same time.

Here are a couple of posts to give you further ideas on the approach you may want to take and how to further think about it in terms of a workflow:


Now you have a selection of methods and approaches to use for data capture to pair with your knowledge of how the data will be entered into your new system—assuming it wasn’t done directly using the portable CMS method! Next week we’ll conclude our work by reviewing how to create a start-to-finish process for cataloging objects in the museum CMS.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

To learn more, please join us for a free webinar I Finally Have a Museum CMS; Now What? On March 27, 2024 at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. (Can’t make it? Register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording and slides afterwards). Register now.

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