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General Functions of a Collections Management System

I am busy writing a summary of our information resources at RBGE and as part of this I am asking people to list what the high level ‘uses’ of their databases are. I am just after a power point or two worth of information. Most of these databases are catalogues of physical objects – they are collections management systems varying from spreadsheets to complex multi-user systems. While I am waiting for the results I found myself thinking up a generic list of functionality for a collections management system.  This is my list:

  • Preserve– Key function is to make sure the collection persists. If it doesn’t persist it will not be available for future use.
    • Track loans in and out of the system so we don’t lose stuff when people borrow it.
    • Control destructive sampling so when we do lose stuff it is done with purpose.
    • Control deaccessioning of material so we only throw out the dead weight – not the good stuff.
    • Manage prophylactic preservation treatments such as cleaning and insect control.
    • Manage restoration tasks. When damaged objects are discovered arrange for them to be stabilized/fixed.
  • Publish– Key function is to make the contents of the collection available for research and enjoyment.
    • Search/Query interface to discover content.
      • Index of what the collection contains – who/what/when/where
      • Track physical location of the object within the collection so it can be retrieved.
    • Share with aggregators of collections information.
    • Control access – copyright/moratoriums/sensitive info.
    • Generate Sales leads – potentially raise funds by selling reproduction rights.
    • Profile/Brand/Marketing – wider awareness to support public funding of collection.
    • Provide electronic citation mechanism e.g. persistent URLs and DOIs to support researchers and publishers.
  • Enrich– Key function is to increase the value of the collections.
    • Accept donations/purchase of new materials
    • Extract/augment information not inherent in the objects e.g. geocoding of collecting location
    • Collect annotations to object by scholars and others.
    • Link to related external sources and encourage linking back to individual objects.

This is just a brain dump and may be a little too long – four power point slides total. What do you think?

One Comment

  1. Charles Hussey Charles Hussey

    Hi Roger,

    I would add to your list: under Preservation – it is also about preserving data. The verbatim data from labels + other sources (i.e. field notes, expedition reports).

    A good CMS will also allow you to ‘add value’ (expands on your ‘enrich’ category):
    1) cross reference scientific names – obsolete names mapped to current names
    2) map collection localities through (mainly retrospective) geo-referencing
    3) find all specimens from a specified donor, collector, expedition, locality



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