Figuring out a Museum DAMS Solution When You Only Have a CMS

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

October 27, 2021

It isn’t unusual for a museum to have a Collections Management System (CMS), but not a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS). 

Out of the two, the CMS is a tool that evolved from a previously analog product: the card catalog. DAMS products are a recent invention that weren’t necessary to museum operations until the museum began creating and acquiring digital files. Last week we reviewed The Evolution and Overlap of Museum DAMS and CMS, this week I’ll outline strategies for museum staff who only have access to a CMS and need to improvise their own DAMS solution.

A DAMS Strategy When You Only Have a CMS

If your museum has a CMS but not a DAMS (and no budget for a DAMS) there are a few ways you can creatively construct a “for now” DAMS solution. Here’s where I recommend you start:

  • Learn what the museum CMS can do regarding typical DAMS functionality.
  • If you have a CMS vendor, inquire with them about DAMS solutions, workarounds, or complementary tools that can be used with their product. 
  • If you use an open-source CMS product then explore the community via GitHub and similar forums to see if there are complementary DAMS modules you can add to your CMS.
  • Survey the tools and products available at your museum (i.e. Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) that are available to provide basic DAMS functionality.

If none of the above results in you finding a “good for now” option already present in the CMS or at the museum, then it’s time to explore free to low-cost products that can perform the minimum DAMS functionality. Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, and many more entry-level products are out there and can serve as a stop-gap until a more permanent DAMS solution can be put into place.

The Most Important DAMS Functionality

The most important DAMS functionality not already replicated by the CMS are:

  • Perform file-health checks to mitigate risk of digital file loss or corruption
  • Support file migration to updated file formats to ensure file access

Plan to address these two areas with whichever DAMS interim-solution you institute at the museum.

A DAMS Strategy for the Long-Term

Eventually the museum will need to invest in a DAMS. The longer the museum operates without one, the more urgent the need becomes. With that in mind, it’s important to plan for your longer-term strategy. For example:

  • Request a budget line to be added to cover an annual service/subscription to a DAMS product
  • Explore an open-source option (e.g. Islandora) if the museum has access to expertise to support this option

Digital Preservation Resources

As digital preservation is at the heart of critical DAMS functionality, it’s important to understand the many facets of digital preservation and the tools and best practices available. Here are the best digital preservation resources I’ve found:


As technology and the way we serve collections online continues to evolve, I forecast that DAMS solutions will be ubiquitous as they become easier to use and more affordable. If your museum doesn’t have a DAMS yet, employ the strategies in this post and do the best you can to preserve the museum digital files for future access and use.

Additional Reading

Are you interested in reading more? Please check out these related posts on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: 

3 Things to Look for When Choosing a Museum Collections Management System

Digital Asset Management Systems Vs Collections Management Systems; Part 1

Digital Asset Management Systems Vs Collections Management Systems; Part 2

Building a Comprehensive Museum Digital Program

What to Do When It’s Your First Museum Digitization Project

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 her newest: Museum Digital Projects and You. Where to Begin?

Rachael is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter.

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