Make a Plan for Non-Standard Museum Data

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

August 23, 2023

As you prepare to move into a new museum Collections Management System (CMS) there will be considerable thought given to how well the museum data will migrate.

If the current CMS in place holds minimal and very standardized data, migration will be easy and straightforward. However, if your museum is like the majority of other museums, there are areas of your data that are not standard. Non-standardization could be creative (intentional or not) use of fields, incomplete records, or highly customized (but irregular) record templates. In which case—prior to migration—you need to determine whether the cleanup of non-standard data will occur before, during, or after migration. 

Work to Complete Prior to this Step

Before you can determine when cleanup should occur you need to first understand what your current data looks like and how your data will enter the new CMS. These steps are covered in previous blog posts, specifically:

Make sure you check out these posts first so that you have all the data you need to determine when cleanup will occur: before, during, or after migration.

The Cleanup Order

The order in which you perform data cleanup may not be entirely up to you. Here’s the breakdown and considerations for each:

Pre-Migration Cleanup (before): Pre-migration cleanup is important to perform if the non-standard data is going to mess up or severely hamper migration into the new CMS. If the museum data is in unusual fields or was entered in a non-standard way, it may need to be re-entered or edited in order for it to successfully migrate into the new CMS.

During Migration Cleanup (during): Cleanup during migration is typically only an option if you have access to expertise (yourself, IT Department, consultant, or CMS vendor) in transforming data during a migration. 

Post-Migration Cleanup (after): If the data won’t hinder the migration too severely it may be easier to wait on cleanup until after the migration into the new CMS. There’s typically more functionality available in the new CMS that can aid bulk cleanup areas. (This is true unless the museum is intentionally downgrading to a CMS with less functional support).

Data cleanup should occur regardless of when (before, during, or after). If there are no constraints on when cleanup has to occur, consider when it would be the most effective for you to do so. 

Strategies for Approaching Data Cleanup

Data cleanup can be quite detailed depending on your data and the new CMS needs. We have covered a few strategies for approaching it in previous posts that you can find here:

If this is your first time considering data cleanup (aka data remediation) I recommend reaching out to colleagues who have conducted similar work as well as to the new CMS vendor your museum will be working with. Both of these sources should be able to provide suggestions and their own examples of strategies to use that may be beneficial.


Data cleanup is one of the last critical steps before fully engaging in daily work with your new CMS. Make sure to carve out enough time in your process to account for this work as it is not only incredibly helpful for the health of your data, but it also helps you to avoid any nasty delays during the migration process.

Additional Reading

Common Museum Data Messes to Look For

Create a Plan for Data Cleanup

Evaluating the Quality of Museum Data

Strategies for Data Cleanup—Part 1

Strategies for Data Cleanup—Part 2

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

To learn more, please join us for How to Prepare for q New Museum CMS, presented by Rachael Woody on Wednesday, August 30, 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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