Part 2: How Much Will Museum Digital Projects Cost Me?

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

November 10, 2021

Last week we reviewed the first cost area of any digital project: digitization equipment. This week we’ll review the software portions of costs to consider: digitization software, museum Collections Management Systems (CMS), and the Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS).

Please note: This post can help provide the lie of the land and cost estimates to start planning with, but in order to calculate an accurate budget for your museum digital project you’ll need to perform some investigative research on your own and solicit quotes from software service vendors. 

2. Digitization Software

In addition to digitization equipment, you will also need digitization software. In simpler digitization projects you may be able to use the standard image capturing software that comes with your computer or the equipment purchased. If you’re performing more advanced digitization work then you may need to consider products like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, Audacity, Agisoft Metashape, Polynomial Texture Mapping (open-source), and Grass GIS (open-source).

Software Cost Range: $0 – $3,500

3. Collections Management Systems (CMS)

If don’t have a CMS currently and need to purchase one, or you have one but you need to purchase a new one, you’ll need to plan for CMS setup, configuration, and migration costs. Additionally, most CMS vendors are now Software as a Service (SaaS) providers. This means the museum will also need to budget for an annual cost to cover software updates and maintenance, troubleshooting issues, and other service support options. Annual CMS costs are typically calculated using different combinations of the following factors: per user, item, or gigabyte.

CMS Options with Purchase Cost (setup, implementation, and migration)

  • Open source: not always, but usually, free: $0
  • Open source with service vendor: $300 – $25,000
  • Off-the-shelf proprietary with some management features: $0 – $10,000
  • Proprietary, full suite of management features with configuration options: $7,500 – $50,000

CMS Options with Annual Cost

  • Open source: not always, but usually, free: $0
  • Open source with service support: $300 – $10,000
  • Off-the-shelf proprietary with some management features: $3,500 – $10,000
  • Proprietary, full suite of management features with configuration options: $7,500 – $25,000
  • Proprietary with multiple collections, customizations, or other layers of difficulty: $50,000+

4. Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS)

For an introduction and in-depth discussion of museum DAMS, please see my recent post: Does Your Museum Need a DAMS?. For every digital project there’s going to be a need to store the digital assets that are created as a result of digitizing museum collection items. At a minimum, the museum will need a storage space separate from the museum CMS to store and manage the assets. When consulting digital preservation best practices, the DAMS should also provide preservation tools to help preserve file access and integrity. There are basic options for general consumers that offer little in the way of preservation (but are at least a start): Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc. More robust museum DAMS options are also available and specifically crafted to facilitate digital asset preservation: Archivematica (open-source), Islandora (open-source), Preservica, and Arkivuum.

When considering a DAMS on its own, there typically isn’t a huge start-up cost like there is with a CMS. There will be an annual cost that’s calculated based on how much server space you need, whether you need a separate server, and how much support you’d like to receive.

  • Open source: not always, but usually, free: $0
  • Open source with service support: $2,500 – $10,000
  • Off-the-shelf proprietary with some preservation features: $3,500 – $10,000
  • Proprietary, preservation features with configuration options: $7,500 – $25,000
  • Proprietary with a full-suite of preservation features and large file capacity: $50,000+

To be continued…

Tune in next week for the part-three continuation of this series where we complete our digital project cost review of resources: 5. Training, Workshops, Certificates, or Classes; and 6. Contractors, Vendors, and Consultants.

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 and a popular presenter. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “How Much Will Museum Digital Projects Cost Me?” on November 24, 2021. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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