Museum Opportunities and How a Collections Management System Can Help

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

October 09, 2019
Recently we reviewed the top four museum challenges as revealed during the 2019 conference season. Please see Museum Challenges and How a CMS Can Help – Part 1 and Part 2 to revisit these and learn how a collections management system can help. This week we’ll review the top three museum opportunities and explore how a museum collections management system can aid in capitalizing on these.

Here are the top three museum opportunity areas: community relations, collaboration, and innovation.

Opportunity: Community Relations

Now more than ever museums are focusing on how they can engage with their communities in meaningful ways. Relationship cultivation has always been a facet of modern-museum work; however, the practice of DEAI and recognizing the community as an involved stakeholder has elevated our attention to this area. Museums traditionally focus on in person activities when addressing community relations. Community events, outreach activities, and listening sessions are great entry-level activities a museum can conduct in person. Nevertheless, I advocate that community relations must also take place online and, specifically, through the museum collections management system (CMS).

Here’s how the CMS can help:

A museum collections management system isn’t the only facet of a museum’s online presence, but it is the most content-rich area. In addition to a continually growing pot of content, the CMS also lends itself to offering customizable digital exhibits. A museum can create an inviting digital portal experience geared toward specific community groups by using already available digital content. Only limited staff time is required to create a catered experience that can be enjoyed by a community important to the museum. By creating special digital areas populated with CMS content the museum can cultivate deeper community relationships.

Opportunity: Collaboration

In part due to tight resources, and in an effort to help innovate, museums have increased their collaborative efforts. Collaboration has become such an established opportunity trend that most large-scale grants now strongly recommend multi-museum partnerships in order to maximize grant funding benefits. Multi-museum collaboration can take a few forms, the most common being: traveling exhibits, jointly hosted symposia, and research or preservation of overlapping collections. Digital projects are another area where collaboration potential is high and the collections management system should definitely be included when considering digital project collaboration.

Here’s how the CMS can help:

Larger collections management systems are typically supported by software companies (as opposed to being open source). As a result, technical engineering of the CMS platform is increasingly supportive of multi-museum collections with specially crafted digital portals (or exhibits). These portals show off the CMS content of several museums without requiring the museums to combine their collections content into one CMS. A CMS can showcase multi-museum collaboration without the comingling of content or the duplicative labor that used to be required in order to showcase a multi-museum digital project.

Opportunity: Innovation

Museums are old. They’ve been around a long time and it’s easy as museum professionals to continually do the same things the same way because that’s how they’ve been done before. For example, look at how long museums resisted offering collection content online because they thought doing so meant people would stop visiting the museum. I strongly recommend that museum staff regularly re-evaluate the activities they do and think on how things can be done better. Innovate. Innovate the back-end museum operations and innovate the museum visitor experience. Specifically, search for new and dynamic ways to present exhibits digitally.

Here’s how the CMS can help:

Most casual digital visitors will not actively search the museum CMS for collection content. They want a digital experience that delivers the CMS content in a browsable fashion. A dynamic CMS can support innovation and frequently updated digital exhibit experiences—an option that isn’t as possible with physical exhibits. For example, a digital portal can play a folksong while digital visitors view objects from the cultural group – pairing the tangible with the intangible. I recommend taking it one step further and thinking about how you can incorporate Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) with your CMS content. To read more please see my post on The Future of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR & VR) in Museums.


Whether it’s these or future museum opportunities, I encourage you to think about how the collections management system can be leveraged. A CMS is not just a vault for collection content. A CMS is a digital space in which the museum can innovate, collaborate, and build meaningful community relationships.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. Read more of Rachael’s posts here. Learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for museum collections management and digitization, which can be used to support a variety of museum outreach methods.

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