COVID-19 has inarguably highlighted the essential role digital collection tools play in the day-to-day access of museum collection holdings.
Due to the pandemic many museums have shuttered or are open for limited hours. And yet, museum staff are still trying to meet their mission to facilitate access to their collections for audience engagement, education, and enjoyment.
Some are lucky and already have a robust Collections Management System (CMS) in place. Others are struggling with a lack of staff, knowledge, tools, or all of the above. This two-part series is written for museum staff who find themselves overwhelmed with trying to deliver their collections online but still want a discoverable museum CMS.
The Importance of Digital Collections
Over the years, digital collections have steadily increased in importance and are key to how museums serve up collections. And the global pandemic has shown us just how critically important it is for museums to provide a public way to access digital collections. But what if you have little to no collections online? Or, what if they’re online, but they’re failing to engage the community by any meaningful metric? If your collections aren’t online and in front of people, I hate to tell you, but they don’t exist as far as digital visitors are concerned.
What *is* a Discoverable CMS?
A discoverable CMS is one that can be discovered easily via organic channels by the general public. The premise is that these users aren’t already familiar with the museum nor the collection contents, yet they find their way to your museum CMS organically via an internet search, scrolling through a social media stream, or other method that isn’t directly pulling up your museum’s website.
What Tools Are Essential for a Discoverable Museum CMS?
While there are essentials for a museum CMS when it comes to museum collections care and management, there are different essentials when it comes to publishing collections online and have them be discoverable. Here are the hallmarks of a discoverable CMS:
- A public-facing portal that provides points of access into the collection and encourage browsing and engaging with the collection.
- A digital museum presence beyond the CMS in the form of a website, YouTube channel, social channels, etc. in order to help boost SEO and help point potential digital visitors to your museum’s CMS.
- Easy to share options from the CMS to all available social media channels; easy enough that digital visitors are encouraged (not dissuaded) to do it.
- Good (at a minimum) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in place that scores well with search engines and shows up in relevant search results.
Where are These Tools?
Digital collections work and the tools we use are more essential now than ever; this will likely remain true long after the pandemic is over. Now that we know what must be in place to aid in digital collection discovery, it’s time to figure out how we’re going to get there. A good CMS will have or support all of the above listed “essentials”. But if you don’t have an exactly stellar CMS it’s time to entertain some creative options. We’ll explore these options in the next part of this series; specifically: what tools are essential, what tools are hackable, and what they cost.
Here are some related readings available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
Rachael Cristine Woody
Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, digital museums, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. Learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for virtual, multimedia presentation of collections, visitor engagement, and museum staff productivity and impact.
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