Whether you’re making your first collection management system purchase or switching to a new solution, it’s important to gather information to make an informed and confident decision.
Every day we're on the phone with organizations looking for an art collection management system. We've spoken with institutions of all sizes with all types of objects to catalog—family estates, universities, hospitals, hotels, airports, artist collectives, etc.. We've noticed a trend of common questions we get asked here at Artwork Archive so we decided to share them, along with some of our answers too. Hopefully, they help as you search for a collection management platform.
Is the collection management system cloud-based?
Modern-day collections need modern-day tools, and that means online functionality. To best care for your artworks, give yourself the flexibility to access, add and edit entries, and share information from a mobile platform. Cloud-based systems are accessible anywhere on any device, whether you’re using a PC, desktop, laptop, or iPad.
Other advantages of online collection management tools: If you decide to change your hardware—say you buy new computers for the team—you won't have access issues in the future. Plus, with your information stored online, you won’t lose data if computers or programs crash.
Can I upload documents?
It is critical to have provenance details and financial records at the ready for insurance reasons. Make sure you can upload images, catalog raisonnés, certificates of authenticity, deeds of sale, and other transaction documents and attach them to object records.
To preserve the cultural objects, you'll need to keep treatment plans, condition reports and conservator notes easily accessible as well. Here's a trick: look for a system that has maintenance tracking so you can record contacts, costs, and reminders.
How can I keep track of where my artworks are located?
Location management is key to collections care. Whether your works are on-site, in storage or traveling on loan, you'll want to know where they are for your own peace of mind, and for security and insurance reasons. Find a collection management system that provides location and exhibition tracking. The ability to create collections also helps you group works and track events like temporary exhibitions or loans.
How can I share information securely with others?
There are a few ways to answer this question.
First, you can find a plan with multiple users so that other people in your organization can contribute to the account at the same time—no licenses needed. This is great for exhibition coordination or communication between collections and their conservators. Some platforms like Artwork Archive let you give view-only status which is helpful for executive leaders or board members.
Another way to share information is to create reports. There are many options out there in collection management systems, but here are a few examples: inventory sheets, sales reports, labels, maintenance reports and exhibition checklists. Since all of your images, piece information, documents, etc. are stored in one place, you don't have to waste time searching through desktop folders or email attachments to create assets to share.
A helpful feature to look for is Private Rooms—an online viewing room of your pieces. With a simple interface, you can easily select your artworks and curate a collection. Then, invite your collaborators to a private online gallery of your works.
Can I migrate my data from an old system?
Chances are you have your data in an outdated system or a spreadsheet. Don’t let the fear of data migration keep you from switching to a better solution. Some programs have teams to help you easily transfer your data securely into your new system. For instance, every organization plan at Artwork Archive comes with a free data import.
Are there hidden fees?
You don’t want to be in a pricey long-term relationship with your collection management system vendor. There can be fees that pop up like training, support or implementation. Things don't have to be complicated or overpriced. Find a collection management system that is so easy to use that it doesn’t require training.
How is my data protected?
If you select a cloud-based system like Artwork Archive you don’t have to be worried about security. Enterprise level security and software redundancy also ensure your data remains protected without any additional effort on your part.
What happens if the vendor goes out of business?
No business wants to see its end. But, with outdated systems that are barely functioning and surviving, and acquisitions that send people away, it’s good to know your options. Make sure you can download your data at any time.
Is there a public-facing element integrated into the system? And can it be embedded onto my website?
Access is a key term in collections care. In this global economy, it is becoming increasingly important to share your cultural heritage with the world. That’s why Artwork Archive offers Private Rooms and the Public Profile. People can view artworks by collection, artist name or location with an interactive map view.
You don’t have two manage two different databases, nor rely on your IT or web team to update your website. You can embed your Artwork Archive account onto your website without double entry.
In our current global pandemic situation, it is crucial to find ways to bring your art institution online and make the artworks accessible. We do not know what the future holds for public engagement, but we do know that creating and sharing online exhibitions is an easy way to retain relevance and continue to support the arts community.