This is the first post in the in our How to Put Museum CMS Data to Work miniseries. This introductory post will define Collections Management System (CMS) data, outline how to find museum CMS data, and highlight the data that provides the best insights.
Subsequent posts will delve deeper into how you can put the data to work for you, and then we’ll end with how museum CMS data can prove the value of collection work.
What CMS Data?
Don’t worry if this is the first time you’ve given thought to CMS data. It can be so easy to immerse ourselves in collection work that we neglect the more technical aspects of our job. But, for the sake of our work and the collections, it’s important to pay attention to museum CMS data as it can offer great insight into what’s working, how digital visitors find their way to the collections, and what they find the most engaging and interesting. A museum CMS gathers statistics on backend work, like how many hours you’ve spent cataloging, in addition to engagement statistics from visitors. Both metrics can be found on your museum CMS dashboard.
Tip: Don’t have a CMS dashboard? That can happen with older or less robust CMS platforms. In that case you can use a free Google Analytics account and attach it to the CMS. Here’s a great article on how to get started.
What CMS Data Should I Look At?
Now that you know where the statistics are gathered it’s time to get familiar with what each number can represent and determine which numbers hold the most meaning for you. Here are the areas I suggest you start with:
- Number of views (unique and total): Unique views are by discrete people. People can sometimes view CMS contents more than once, but for unique views they will only be counted once. However, the CMS will also track total views and that counts repeated views by the same people. Both are helpful to know as these numbers tell you how many visitors and visit sessions objects in the museum CMS received.
- Length of duration per visit: This tells you how long someone is viewing the object. This helps indicate what content is more engaging and more interesting to the viewers.
- What pages are viewed: This indicates what is or is not being viewed. Many dashboards can rank the object views from top viewed to bottom. This indicates where viewer interests are and if your traffic-driving efforts (like through social media and blog posts) are working.
- What links are clicked: This is very valuable information as it tracks what visitors click on and view next after viewing an object.
- Where referral links are working: Referral links are links to the museum CMS from an external website. These links send you traffic—a very important job!—and it’s good digital hygiene to know what external sites are sending traffic your way.
- What search terms are being used: In most cases the majority of our viewers arrive through a search performed on a search engine (like Google or Bing). They are usually viewers who weren’t already familiar with the museum and the search terms they used to arrive at the CMS will be very informative to your work.
If you’re not normally a numbers or a statistics person, it can be overwhelming to start. I recommend opening the dashboard and get familiar with the different sections. If you have a CMS vendor then I recommend asking them to provide an orientation. Either way, it’s time to dig in because next week we’re going to talk about how to make those numbers work for you!
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. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “How to Put Museum CMS Data to Work” on February 24th. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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