Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.
Selection, Management and Maintenance of Collections Management Software
Here is an extensive list of valuable information categorized alphabetically by author.
- American Association of Museums
- Orlowski, Thomas J.
- Baron, Robert A.
- Perkins, John
- Bearman, David
- Roberts, D. Andrews
- Bormuth Witt, Barbara
- Sarasan, Lenore
- Canadian Heritage Information Network
- Saskatchewan Arts Board
- Dawson, David
- Sledge, Jane
- Gerrard, Richard
- Société des musées québecois
- Grant, Alice
- Stam, Deirdre C.
- Link Haifley, Julie
- Sullivan, Mary L.
- Museum Documentation Association
- Taylor, M. Elizabeth
- National Museums of Canada
- Velure, Magne
American Association of Museums, «Museum Automation: Defining the Need» dans Museum News, July/Aug. Washington, AAM, 1988. http://www.aam-us.org/
Round table discussion involving Jane Sledge, Paul Perrot, David Bearman, Rosanne McCaffrey, Peter Homulos, and Lenore Sarasan. Emphasis on planning and user involvement. Makes distinction between information management within the museum and in automation projects; the museum should focus first on planning its information system, not its computerization; once there is understanding about the information system and what should be automated, implementation can begin. The hope of commercial market for software depends on museums finding commonalities in their processes and methods.
Baron, Robert A. . 1991.Choosing Museum Collection Management Software.
The Systems Analysis: Its Methods, Functions and Benefits. http://www.studiolo.org/MusComp/STATEMNT.htm
This paper, aimed at the non-technical museum professional, discusses issues germane to museums planning to commission a systems analysis. Here, the systems analysis documents collection management activities and serves as a precursor to creating or purchasing collection management software. This paper is presented largely in the form in which it was written in 1991, with only minor revisions.
Bearman, David and Wright, Belinda (eds.). 1993. 1992-3 Directory of Software for Archives and Museums.
Technical Report No. 15. Archives and Museum Informatics, Pittsburgh.
Lists specifications of commercially available software products (excluding generic database management products) and service bureaus which support museum and archives applications. The report includes a brief description of the system, an overview of the system's applications, utilities, and standards. Indexed by software products, service bureaus, applications, operating systems, and utilities.
Bearman, David. 1988. Software Trends for Museums. Museum News, July-Aug, p. 34-5. American Association of Museums, Washington.
Describes the growing availability of off-the-shelf software packages for collections management. Notes that the cost of computerization is lessened where there is a market for multiple copies of an application, and therefore advocates the standardization of "indigenous practices" of museums "in order to take advantage of systems that have a wide appeal". Stresses that the success of museum automation is not wholly dependant on software. Description of trends.
Bormuth Witt, Barbara. 1989. How to Choose a Computer System: Advice from a Vendor. In Spectra, Vol. 16 (4). Museum Computer Network.
Written by the Senior Museum Specialist at Questor Systems, Inc., this article offers advice on the client-vendor relationship, evaluating and listing your needs, questions to ask the vendor, how to use the vendors to your best advantage, and writing an RFP (Request for Proposal).
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1991. Analysis of the Collection Documentation for the Musée des Augustines de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. CHIN, Ottawa.
This report analyses the state of the museum's documentation, identifies its documentation and collections management needs and priorities, and makes recommendations for appropriate methods and procedures to document the museum's collection. Recommendations include:
- completion of a collection inventory,
- the review, standardization, and completion of the documentation system, and
- making provision for maintenance and updating of the documentation system.
Strategies are developed for achieving the goals set out by the recommendations. Includes a "general approach to setting up a documentation system. . . as an example which can be modified to suit the museum's needs". French version available under the title, Analyse de la documentation de la collection du Musée des Augustines de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec.
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1997. Collections Management Software Review. CHIN, Hull. http://pro.chin.gc.ca/gestion_collections-collections_management/evaluation_logiciels-software_review/index-eng.jsp
This Review, a three-volume set, is designed to assist museums in selecting and integrating in-house collections management systems into their institutions. It contains detailed evaluation results and statistics for 21 collections management software products and includes the criteria checklist that was used to conduct the evaluations. It outlines the software's suitability to museum discipline, collections size, museum functions, and hardware and software environment. It also analyses vendor reliability, support requirements, customization possibilities, and costs.
The Review is a comprehensive guide to the functionality of the software products in the areas of collections and data management, user interface, queries, reports, technical requirements, and system administration. The Review is available as a printed document, in diskette form, or by subscription on the CHIN web site at http://www.chin.gc.ca. Available in French under the title, Évaluation de logicels de gestion des collections.
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1997. Criteria Checklist. CHIN, Hull. http://www.pro.chin.gc.ca/gestion_collections-collections_management/liste_criteres-criteria_checklist/index-eng.jsp
The Criteria Checklist of over 500 functional requirements for collections management was used in the software evaluations conducted at CHIN. It includes criteria for Collections Management, Data Management, User Interface, Query, Reports, Technical Requirements, and System Adminstration.
With changes to reflect individual circumstances, the Criteria Checklist can be used by museums to help with needs assessment, or to perform their own software evaluations. Available in diskette form. Available in French under the title, Liste de critères.
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1990. Documenting the Quebec Collections: CHIN Action Plan. CHIN, Ottawa.
Report on a project to upgrade representation from Quebec collections in the CHIN National Databases. Describes current situation (statistics on Quebec museums participating in the Network), the goal and objectives (to increase the records from Quebec by 30% by integrating natural science and religious collections, creating a provincial network, etc.), and makes recommendations. Includes activity timetable. French version available under the title, La documentation des collections du Québec: Plan d'action du RCIP.
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1997. Product Profiles and Comparative Statistics. CHIN, Hull.
Derived from the series of evaluations performed for the Collections Management Software Review, this volume provides an overview of the evaluation results and statistics for each of the collections management software products. Includes information on the software vendor, product specifications, costs, training, documentation, customer support, vendor reliability, references, and comparative statistics. Available as a printed document, or in diskette form. Available in French under the title, Description des produits et statistiques comparatives.
Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1997. Product Reviews. CHIN, Hull.
The Product Reviews are derived from the series of evaluations performed for the Collections Management Software Review. A individual Product Review is available for each of the 21 software packages that were evaluated. Includes information on the software vendor, product specifications, costs, training and documentation, customer support, vendor reliability, references, evaluators' comments on the product, individual ratings for each criteria that was demonstrated by the vendor, and graphs outlining the functionality for the product.
The Product Reviews are meant to assist museums after they have narrowed their choice of software. Available as a printed document. Available in French under the title, Rapports d'évaluation.
Canadian Heritage Information Network and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 1987. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Information Systems Framework. CHIN, Ottawa, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
Report describing the "development and results of a project to define an Information Systems Framework for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)". It uses a similar methodology to the 1985 Corporate Information Systems Framework of the National Museums of Canada. Includes a business model (describing "nature and business of the museum in functional terms"), and an information model (describing "the information required by the VMFA to support the activities detailed in the business model").
Also makes proposals for development of subject area databases and computer systems applications. Automated systems are proposed and described, and future directions for technology at the VMFA are recommended. English only.
Dawson, David, and Gill, Tony. 1996. MDA Survey of Information Technology in Museums 1996-97. Museum Documentation Association, Cambridge.
This straight-forward publication surveys the hardware and software used by museums in the UK - including an overview of currently available software, advice on choosing a computer, and an introduction to the Internet. It is also accompanied by advice on using SPECTRUM, and on specifying a collections management system.
Gerrard, Richard. 1996. Stewardship, Collections Management and the New Technology: Old Problems, New Challenges. In Galleries On-line: Investigating New Technologies. Ontario Association of Art Galleries 1996 Annual Conference, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
A look at the impact of new technology on the "old problems" of collections management: tracking an object's location, assessing the value of objects, and administering legal title for objects. Describes how the "new technology" has changed collections management and introduced new challenges for collections managers, such as intellectual property rights, international telecommunications systems, etc. Speculates on how new technology will continue to affect collections management, and the implications for the broader responsibility of museums as stewards of collections.
Grant, Alice. Summer 1996. Perseverance and pragmatism show LASSI the road home.
In Spectra. Vol. 23 (4). Museum Computer Network.
LASSI stands for Larger Scale Systems Initiative. The article discusses the collaboration required to develop the collections package, and then the contract with the many government, public and private sector participants.
Upcoming session at the 1998 Museum Computer Network Conference (tapes will be available from MCN post-conference).
In an unprecedented joint effort, the six Smithsonian art museums developed requirements for an off-the-shelf collections information system, submitted a Request for Proposal through the Institution's contracting office, evaluated responses from vendors, and selected a single system for implementation in all the museums. Panelists will discuss the internal and external forces involved in their decision-making process, their successful efforts to obtain funding for the entire project from the central SI administration, how they achieved buy-in from their respective staffs, and how they developed requirements for diverse collections - from thousands of wallpaper and fabric samples to monumental sculpture. The session will conclude with a status report and a glimpse of future plans for the system. The six museums involved in the project are the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Freer Gallery/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of African Art, the National Museum of American Art, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Museum Documentation Association. 1995. Computers in Museums: The Essential Guide for Museum Professionals 1994-95
.Brief guide to selecting collections management software and systems; includes useful explanation of what a database is, and describes different types, including flat file, hierarchical, relational, free text, and hypertext databases. Also includes sections (with decision trees) on how to choose a database, how to choose a computer, and how to choose a printer. Contains short reviews/surveys of software used in UK museums, and a glossary of computing terms.
Museum Documentation Association. 1994. SPECTRUM: The UK Museum Documentation Standard. Alice Grant, (ed.). MDA, Cambridge.
SPECTRUM (Standard ProcEdures for CollecTions Recording Used in Museums) is a guide to "good practice for museum documentation, established in partnership with the museum community. It contains procedures for documenting objects and the processes they undergo, as well as identifying and describing the information which needs to be recorded to support the procedures". Includes information on the minimum standard for museum documentation.
In its Procedures section, SPECTRUM provides a description of "the process of documenting objects as well as all the collections management activities in a museum". There are 20 different procedures described: object entry, loans in, acquisition, inventory control, location and movement control, cataloguing, condition checking, conservation, reproduction, risk management, insurance management, indemnity management, valuation control, audit, exhibitions and displays, despatch, loans out, loss, deaccession and disposal, and retrospective documentation. Each of these procedures are defined, and the user is supplied with a description of the minimum standard and a step-by-step guide to the actual procedure. Relevant units of information (data fields which the procedure will affect) are also provided for each procedure.
In its section on Information Requirements, SPECTRUM describes and defines "the information required to support the procedures, including basic object description" (p.1). This section, in data dictionary format, provides overview of information units, a summary of procedural use (lists information required to perform each of the 20 procedures), and describes units of information.
Also includes sections on "Legal and management issues for information", "Documentation issues for collections management policies", "Recording guidelines and terminology", a glossary, bibliography, and list of addresses (sources of assistance and advice).
Museum Documentation Association. 1994. SPECTRUM Essentials. Alice Grant, (ed.). MDA, Cambridge. A shortened and simplified version of SPECTRUM: The UK Museum Documentation Standard, for smaller museums. Like SPECTRUM, Spectrum Essentials is a guide to "good practice for museum documentation". It contains descriptions of "procedures for documenting objects and the processes they undergo. It also identifies the information which needs to be recorded to support the procedures".Essentials, however, omits the description of each procedure and information requirement that is present in the complete SPECTRUM.
Includes information on the minimum standard for museum documentation. Also includes section of useful addresses, bibliography, and glossary.
Museum Documentation Association. 1991. Who's Using What Software for Documentation Where MDA, Cambridge.
Booklet listing commercial documentation applications and general purpose database management systems along with the UK museums which make use of them for collections management, cataloguing, or inventory. Also includes list of suppliers of the applications, and further information on software directories, software evaluation, requirements checklists, and museum consultants.
National Museums of Canada. 1985. Corporate Information Systems Framework. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Report presenting "a planning tool designed to facilitate the rationalized development of NMC databases and computer systems". Presents a business model (describing "nature and business of the corporation", which includes the processes of acquisition/disposition, collections documentation, care of collections, conservation, research, etc.) and an information model (describing "the information required by NMC to support the activities detailed in the business model"), which lists data entities, etc. Also makes proposals for development of a NMC database architecture. English only.
Orlowski, Thomas J. 1995. Smart Selection and Management of Association Computer Systems. American Society of Association Executives, Washington.
A guide to provide senior staff specialists and CEO's working in associations both large and small with the necessary information to wisely assess their organization's computer system needs, make sound purchasing decisions, and implement system changes.
Perkins, John. 1993. Planning for Museum Automation. Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook. Archives and Museum Informatics Technical Report. Archives and Museum Informatics, Pittsburg.
Materials that will be useful to instructors preparing to teach a workshop or short course on planning for museum automation. It provides topics, teaching ideas and content that can be organized as lecture notes and teaching outlines. It also includes a directory to additional resources.
Roberts, D. Andrew. 1985. Planning the Documentation of Museum Collections. Museum Documentation Association, Cambridge.
Report on a project to study current state and future development of museum documentation systems. Outstanding detailed discussion of documentation history, theory, objectives, standards, procedures, and assessment. Also deals with the impact of new technology on documentation, and the implications of documentation on museum resources.
Includes glossary of documentation terms (museum activities), and discussion of hardware and software for automated systems. Gives examples of documentation practice from over 50 museums and related institutions in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Includes sample documentation forms for entry, acquisition, etc.
Sarasan, Lenore and Neuner, A.M. 1983. Museum Collections and Computers. Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas.
Reviews various "existing computerized management projects with the purpose of providing guidelines for those... considering such projects for their own institutions. Presents common problems with museum computerized management projects and ways to avoid them. Contains annotated bibliography of articles and publications relevant to computerization projects.
Sarasan, Lenore. 1981. Why Computer Projects Fail. In Museum News. Vol. 59 (4). American Association of Museums, Washington.
Discusses history of computerization projects. Discusses findings of a 1979 Association of Systematics Collections (ASC) study of the problems museums face in automation of collections documentation. ASC identified problems causing automation failure: museum misunderstandings of distinctions between different types of computer professionals, budget constraints, lack of familiarity with technology, lack of proper planning and poor project management, and lack of understanding of the principles and functions of documentation. Defines the elements of documentation.
Saskatchewan Arts Board and Canadian Heritage Information Network. 1989. Saskatchewan Arts Board Collections Management Requirements Report. CHIN, Ottawa.
Summary of requirements to automate the collections management activities (acquisition/disposition, collections documentation, care of collections, and conservation) performed within the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Contains a business model, functional requirements, and recommendations for an approach to meet the requirements. Also includes project plan. English only.
Sledge, Jane. 1989. Successful Museum Computerization: The Secret Ingredients. In Spectra, Volume 16 (4). Museum Computer Network, Pittsburgh.
States that a "key to successful automation is the determination of the museum's mission, the definition of its goals, and the description of the strategies, objectives, and action steps which will result in the achievement of the goals". Provides advice on avoiding automation problems and increasing the chances of success.
Société des musées québecois, 1994. Customizing a Computer Application for Quebec Museums: Tendering Document, Analysis of Proposals, Customer Survey, Conclusions and Recommendations. La Société des musées québécois.
This is the final report on the selection of a computer application by the Info-Muse network (for a description of the first phases of this project, see previous entry in this bibliography). This report describes the final stages of the process: sending out an invitation to tender to shortlisted software vendors, analyzing the proposals, and completing a survey of the customers of these vendors. Includes the tendering document, analytic tools, questionairre sent to customers, and a comparitive table of customer responses.
Translation of this document made possible by the Canadian Heritage Information Network; available in French under the title, Adaptation d'une application informatique pour les institutions québécoises: devis, analyse des soumissions, consultation des clients, conclusions et recommendations.
Stam, Deirdre C. and Bonzi, Suzan. 1991. Systems Analysis in a Small Museum: The Genet Costume Collection. In Spectra, Vol. 18 (3). Museum Computer Network, Pittsburgh.
Excellent article on the process of systems analysis in a small museum. The systems analysis process described in the case study of the Genet Costume Collection is generally applicable to any museum in the process of evaluating and analyzing its information system. Includes a list of questions that will "guide the analysis of the information system", with sample answers from the Genet Gallery. Also includes a summary analysis of the Genet Gallery information system. This article also provides assistance with planning for and implementing changes to the system.
Sullivan, Mary L. Why Plan for Automation? 1990. In Museums & Information: New Technological Horizons/Les musées et l'information: De nouveaux horizons technologiques. Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and Canadian Heritage Information Network, Winnipeg.
Explains why planning is essential for museums that are beginning the process of automation. Warns of the pitfalls of unplanned automation, such as incompatible, redundant, and costly systems. The benefits of planning for automation are illustrated by a description of the automation project at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Includes a description of the development of an information systems framework, which was assisted by CHIN (See Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Information Systems Framework by CHIN and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in this bibliography). It also includes a description of the museum's technology strategy and implementation plan. English only.
Taylor, M. Elizabeth. 1990. The Development and Implementation of an Information Systems Plan for the Royal British Columbia Museum. In Museums & Information: New Technological Horizons/Les musées et l'information: De nouveaux horizons technologiques. Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and Canadian Heritage Information Network, Winnipeg.
This paper describes the process undertaken by the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria to integrate its information management systems. The museum first produced a solid set of plans for the process, and conducted an information systems study to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the museum's current information systems environment. Describes the identification of requirements and implementation.
Velure, Magne. Strategies for Implementing Information Technology in a Museum Organization: A Norwegian Case. 1990. In Museums & Information: New Technological Horizons/Les musées et l'information: De nouveaux horizons technologiques. Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and Canadian Heritage Information Network, Winnipeg.
Looks at information technology as a tool by which museums can achieve their specific goals. Using the example of a museum in Lillehammer, Norway, the author describes the process of planning for information technology, including the development of standards for cataloguing and terminology. Describes the step-by-step approach taken by the museum to computerize their records. Article in English only.