How to Incorporate Interns in Museum CMS Projects: Data Creation

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

April 17, 2024

Last week we covered the first of three project ideas on how to incorporate interns in museum Collections Management System (CMS) work: data capture. Today’s project idea will center on data creation as one example of a museum CMS project for future internships.

You can use these “project idea” posts as a template and adapt them to your needs. Each post will outline a suggested scope, project activities, and outcomes

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 Creation”?

To begin: What is data creation and how is it different from data capture? Data creation is the act of creating information from scratch. There may be information to reference and research to perform in order to aid data creation, but the emphasis here is that the person doing the work must synthesize information and then create new data for the CMS. Data areas that typically require creation (versus capture) are:

  • Name/Title
  • Date
  • Description
  • Extent
  • Dimensions
  • Category, class, subject

Sample Scope of Work for the Intern

A set of 200 objects have been accessioned into the collection but are now part of a backlog to receive their object records. While partial information is available from the accession record, time must be spent with each item to create the rest of the data elements needed for an object record. You intend to host a museum studies (graduate-level) intern over the summer (for 10-weeks) to take on the task.

  • Number of objects: 200
  • Number of object records to create in the CMS: 200
  • Number of workdays over the course of the internship: 50
  • Number of objects to review and records to create per day: 4 (or 1 every 2 hours)

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 created, 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 entered. Note: These instructions should be based off of museum descriptive 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 offers a deep-dive into the registrar and curator worlds of research, information referencing, and description creation. Additional benefits are as follows:

  • Experience researching objects and synthesizing information.
  • Provides an authentic cataloging experience.
  • Exposes interns to a vast portion of a museum collection.
  • Introduces interns to the many resources available for interpreting and describing the collection.

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.


We’ve now covered two of three project ideas that incorporate interns into museum CMS work: data capture and data creation. Next week will conclude our series with an overview of how to incorporate interns in data cleanup and refinement.

Additional Reading

Document Museum CMS Fields and Function

Establishing Museum CMS Best Practices

The Importance of Sustainable Museum Cataloging & How to Achieve It

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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