How to Incorporate Interns in Museum CMS Projects: Data Capture

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

April 10, 2024

Last week we reviewed the basics for how to incorporate interns in museum Collections Management System (CMS) projects . Now we will delve into three project ideas for how to incorporate interns in museum CMS work.

The “project idea” posts are intended for you to use as a template and adapt to your needs. This post will outline a suggested scope, project activities, and outcomes. Today’s project idea will center on data capture as one example of a museum CMS project for future internships. While best practices and activities will be the same or similar across any data capture project, the numbers for suggested scope and outcomes are merely suggestions in order to demonstrate the project idea as a full concept.

What is “Data Capture”?

Data capture is the act of gathering information on a collection item that already exists in some form outside the CMS. In this sense we are capturing the information to place within the CMS instead of serving as the original authors of the data.

Information often found outside of the CMS in some form can be:

  • Acquisition materials
  • Provenance information
  • Previous conservation work
  • Previous exhibitions
  • Archives that connect related works

Sample Scope of Work for the Intern

There are 450 items from a specific area of the collection that all came in prior to a CMS. All accessioning was done by hand and has yet to be entered into the CMS. You intend to host a museum studies (graduate-level) intern over the summer (for 12-weeks) to take on the task.

  • Number of hard-copy accession files to review: 450
  • Number of accession records to create in the CMS: 450
  • Number of workdays over the course of the internship: 60
  • Number of accession files to review and create per day: 8 (or 1 an hour)

I encourage you to time yourself performing a couple of test runs to calculate an average for how long the activity will take. This will help give you a baseline. Then build in a buffer to account for the intern’s newness to the project, and any orientation or other non-project time that may take away from the intern’s total availability to perform work on the project.

Things to Put in Place

In order to capitalize on the intern’s time and help set the project up for success, there are a few items to put into place:

  • A spreadsheet or similar document that has a template of information to be captured, modeled off the CMS fields the data will go into.
  • A set of instructions that outline which fields to populate information for and how the information should be captured. Note: These instructions should be based off of museum best practices and the CMS catalog.
  • A list of places to check for item information, what the information is (type), and how it can be found.

With clear and easy-to-follow documentation in place the intern won’t lose any time attempting to remember steps. Additionally, these resources will help to re-enforce the use of best practices and performing the work according to specifications.

Benefits for the Intern

This project idea is an invaluable introduction to the type of object information that can exist outside of the item record, and familiarizes interns with the role each type of documentation plays. Additional benefits are as follows:

  • Experience working with acquisition and provenance information.
  • Provides an authentic cataloging experience.
  • Introduces interns to the accession process.

There are, of course, many more benefits that can be gained from any internship experience. When crafting an internship description, I recommend you include the benefits the intern will gain from both the internship experience at your museum as well as from the specific project they will be working on.


Hopefully this post has helped to serve as inspiration for your future internship plans and made it a little easier by offering a template to get started. If this post has you excited about internship project potential, then you’re in luck! We have two more project ideas on how to incorporate an intern in museum CMS work.

Additional Reading

Building a Strategy to Catalog an Entire Museum Collection

Effective Technology Training for Museum Volunteers & Interns

How to Create a Meaningful Internship Experience

How to Ethically Adapt Museum Staff Capacity for Digital Projects

How to Ethically Build Museum Intern and Volunteer Opportunities

Museum Digital Project Roles for Staff, Volunteers, and Interns

Museum Digital Projects: Capacity & Expectation Setting

Post-Migration Data Cleanup and Refinement

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

To learn more, please join us for a free webinar How to Incorporate Interns in Museum CMS Projects on April 24, 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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