Chap 12: ‘Managing collections or managing content? The evolution of museum collections management systems,’ by Malcolm Chapman

In chapter 14 of Museum Practice, Malcolm Chapman considers CMS or collections management systems which have become such an important and indeed ubiquitous feature of museums today with the advent of digital technologies. Tracing their evolution over the last few decades, and reviewing a range of examples of innovative developments from around the world, he asks whether museums today are “managing collections or managing content?” To be relevant to users in a digital world, museums have to invest “in resources and ideas to deliver collections knowledge, the content, in the formats and locations where the user is.” Chapman contends that “museums need to be active in the digital world both as publishers and as participants in the creation and sharing of knowledge and ideas.”

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Malcolm Chapman is Head of Collections Management at the The Hunterian, University of Glasgow. Malcolm has worked in the UK with collections and collections management systems in national and university museums for over twenty years, with a particular focus on improving users’ access to collections and collections knowledge. He has published on the topic and regularly lectures on current museum practice.


About mccartco

Conal McCarthy has published widely on the historical and contemporary Māori engagement with museums, including the books Exhibiting Māori: A history of colonial cultures of display (2007) and Museums and Māori: Heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice (2011). His new book is Museum practice (2015) in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. This edited collection includes chapters on many aspects of current professional work from audience, leadership and policy to collections, exhibitions and conservation. His next book co-authored with Bronwyn Labrum of Massey University will explore history of/in museums.
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