Five strategies unleashing the power of collection management system data

Museums have massive and growing troves of data in their collection management systems. Data is the foundation of collection knowledge. Massage it into information and you have a narrative that is compelling to the world. The tricky question is: what will the world find compelling?

This is not the same question as: what does the consumer want? They may not know they want.

If you were an early Facebook adopter, you would have made your point with clever text. Soon, you were offering sound bites. Today, you must have audio-visual treats to really grab the consumer of social media. Museums have been slow in moving to rich multimedia experiences, despite having an incredible collection of material to leverage.

Issues such as ROI, cost of products with short life-cycles and Intellectual Property have challenged museums, as they have the rest of the world. There is movement. Museums are mobilising to meet the demands of the electronic age.

Let’s take a look at five strategies that will offer fabulous museum troves to the world:


Wearable electronics offer opportunities to target information and knowledge to individual consumers. Current offerings are focused on wearers wishing to manage things like health. This will morph as manufacturers seek to cement these tools into daily life.

The exciting opportunity for collections information relates to customer participatory experiences. When used with related technology such as iBeacons, collections and educational narratives will be delivered through concepts that are becoming familiar in many aspects of life. Examples include gamification, augmented reality and person to person technology.


Institutions are very open to sharing which is a boon for the consumer once the information is appropriately harvested and packaged. Visual resources are expensive but can be easily and cheaply shared between museums. There are vast opportunities to offer richer experiences to the consumer.

Simple presentation of the same material over and over will become stale very quickly, so clever manipulation and repackaging of core assets will be necessary to ensure a fresh, informative and exciting product. This is a big challenge.


Social media is a great vehicle for museum information. Operating at the opposite end of the spectrum to targeted delivery, social media offers serendipitous exposure to markets and people. Often the initiating museum may not have foreseen the possibilities. Fortune especially favours social media distribution when an event creates a phenomenon for some unexpected reason, a “viral” event. Having the data and information available at that time can give fabulous exposure.

Entering the social media arena is very low cost; maintaining information is where the expense grows. It seems that the constant need to feed the social media pipeline also can degrade creativity. It is critical to have a deep well of strong, interesting material to be fed at a steady rate.

Social media’s ability to solicit the views of the public is astounding. Social tagging, as this was called, has led to increases in the value of collections. The amount of negative and insincere feedback has been miniscule. Museums that have successfully harvested information from the public have begun an open-ended dialogue with the public to add to the value of objects in telling the story of our world.


Online monetisation of small things, micro-sales, is potentially very profitable for museum material. This will require considerable effort to determine what the market looks like and how to service it. There seems to have been little experimentation in this area.

People are more likely to value a product they pay for, especially if it is well presented and marketed. Museums are only beginning to explore a relationship with advertising but there must be a lot of income associated opportunities relating to web traffic.


You have all these interesting objects; how can your collections management system protect your valuables? The first step is to have the objects digitised and photographed, this is vital to prove ownership in the event of a theft. This can be impractical, it should be done for key and high value objects as a priority.

Physical protection of your collections involves anti-theft and environmental control.

Building mapping technology can be used for quick access to key objects if you have thought ahead with your Disaster Recovery Plan. How many museums have this level of detail kept up to date in their DRPs?

Tools to manage other threats to collections such as integrated pest management also provide security.

RFID tags can track objects, measure the display / storage environment and employ significant anti-theft features, especially when integrated with a collection management system. Destructive RFID tags can be used to seal boxes, cabinets and storage rooms. If the RFID data reader detects the destructive tags intact, the operator can assume nobody has taken anything from storage, saving time during stock take.

Gantries around points of exit can protect you from theft and unauthorised moves by monitoring RFID tags.

RFID tags can be used to enhance customer experience projects, gather usage statistics and customer movement data, increasing the ROI.

Get the latest news in your mailbox with our newsletter

Select your areas of interest: