How to Prepare for Museum Data Migration

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

July 12, 2023

As you approach the migration of the museum data to a new Collections Management System (CMS), there are a series of proactive—and sometimes required—tasks to complete before the migration begins. 

Data migration can be one of the most intensive parts of implementing a new CMS, so the sooner you dive into discovery-mode to ascertain what it will take, the better off you (and your team) will feel. This post will provide an overview of review and evaluation. Next week we’ll get into the details of what the review and evaluation pieces entail.

Review the Current CMS Data via Spreadsheet for Each Migration Area

Review your data as a whole in order to identify any data gaps, formatting issues, and incorrectly used fields or formatted data, etc. Many museum collections management systems provide an export option of your data. Export data is most often provided as a Comma Separated Value (.CSV) spreadsheet. Executing the export of data can be easy or difficult depending on the system. If data extraction is available to you (as a user) then you’ll likely find instructions for how to do so via the CMS documentation. And, if you work with a CMS vendor make sure you reach out for help if you need it.

For more details on how to perform an evaluation, please review our previous posts on this topic: 

Request a Spreadsheet Record Template for Each Migration Area

Request a spreadsheet template (most common is a Comma Separated Value (.CSV) spreadsheet) from the new CMS, one for each record type. These template records should look like a set of labeled columns across the top listing all possible fields, and each row represents a record entry. If your current data is only item-level records, then you’ll only need one spreadsheet for that record type. If your museum has different record types in other areas of a CMS, then you’ll need a spreadsheet for each area of the CMS where you intend to migrate data. 

For example: If the museum uses the current CMS for donor tracking, accessions, loans, exhibits, etc.; then the you’ll need to migrate that data to each respective part of the new database. Each area of records will require its own record template and therefore, its own spreadsheet.

Evaluate How the Current Data Fits the Anticipated New CMS Data Structure

This review of both the current and new CMS data structure will help you to identify both data cleanup needs as well as any data transformation or additional needs required ahead of the migration in order to meet the requirements of the new system. There are several areas to review and items to be on the lookout for. Here’s an outline of areas to evaluate pre-migration:

  • What are the required fields according to the CMS setup?
  • What are the fields the museum uses currently and how do those map to the new CMS fields in the record template?
  • Are there any discrepancies in how the data is entered in the current CMS field and how it has to be formatted in the new CMS field?
  • According to this evaluation, which required fields (according to the new system) are missing?
  • According to this evaluation, which fields have data that will need to be reformatted?

As you work your way through each prompt keep a document that captures each area of data that needs cleanup. Your review will result in a comprehensive document listing each data area that needs attention AND indicating whether the data needs to be cleaned up prior to migration.


Now that you have a plan for how to perform a review and evaluation of your data needs you can prepare yourself for all data migration realities. You will know which tasks must be done prior to migration—and their scope. Next week’s post will offer a drilldown into the details of what it takes for a successful data migration.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

If you’d like to learn more, please join us for Preparing for Museum Data Migration, presented by Rachael Woody on July 26, 2023 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 or call 604-278-6717.

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