How to Make Museum CMS Data Work for You

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

February 10, 2021

This is the second post in the How to Put Museum CMS Data to Work miniseries. Last week we reviewed the “what” and “where” of Collections Management System (CMS) data in The Museum CMS Data You Need to Pay Attention To post. This week I’ll outline how museum CMS data can benefit the museum and offer tips on how you can use it for decision-making, program growth, and demonstrating success.

How Museum CMS Data Can Work for You

We gather statistics in order to quantify the value of our activities and see what is and isn’t working. Statistics offer insight and deliver evidence we can use to help with our decision-making, support collection program efficacy growth, and show the math on our success. It’s important to cultivate a practice of regularly checking CMS statistics. Once you’re familiar with the data you can use it to help direct your work, leading to an increase in efficiency. So, rather than thinking of CMS data as “one more thing to do”, instead use it as a tool to help you become more efficient and impactful.

CMS Data Aids in Good Decision Making

Use CMS data to:

  • Track trends that over time can offer insight into things such as seasonality of content and the popularity of the objects or exhibits. This data can help inform exhibit programming and digitization priorities based on audience interest.
  • Compare and contrast what’s working and not working by seeing what objects and exhibits are receiving views and where others aren’t. This can indicate where more promotion and cross-linking are needed.
  • Make evidence-based decisions based on the trends you’re observing and how objects or exhibits are comparing. This can inform project priorities and where it makes sense to invest more staff time.

Supports Program Efficacy and Growth

Statistics can reveal high-value areas with the numbers showing what viewers want more or less of. By observing what’s resonating with the viewers you can decide if it makes sense for staff time to be directed toward offering similar content. Using CMS data to drive collection work can help you build effectiveness into the collection program that will more than likely pay off because you already know what viewers want more of. This is a great way to have data inform collection program growth. Additionally, you’ll find donors and grants are also interested in CMS data because it’s a fairly neutral way to demonstrate program efficacy, which will support any funding case you make to them.

Shows the Math on Museum Success

Finally, use the data to help make your case: 

  • Make the request: Whether it’s investing in a new area of the collection, adding more staff, or acquiring other resources; you can use the CMS data at your fingertips to demonstrate the need behind your request. 
  • Provide a record of your work: This data can be used for periodic check-ins to make sure things are working as intended, and for end of project close-outs to demonstrate what work was done and how things went. Use this data for end of project reports, annual reports, grant reports, and other success determining mechanisms.
  • Transparency and accountability: This same data—and your tracking of it—helps provide transparency on collection work and can aid in any accountability measures for yourself and the museum.

Conclusion

The data is right there, in the museum CMS. If you haven’t started already, it’s time to dive into the numbers and start making those stats work for you. I recommend making a practice of checking your statistics at least once a month with periodic reviews of month-to-month comparisons, and year on year. The more familiar you are with your statistics the better they can 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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