Database Software for Archival and Museum Collections

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    • #131899
      amanda gould

      Hi all,

      I’m a museum conservator who outside my day-job holds a volunteer position with my local small historical society. They have an ever increasing archival, including born digital documents and images, collection in addition to artifacts that have been assembled with the view of one day building a museum. A previous volunteer built a custom database in Filemaker (version 10 I believe), into which a good portion of the archival collection has been entered. The fields are basic as far as I understand: accession number, donor, location etc.

      I am used to using KE EMu and to a lesser extent TMS. As a paper conservator I’m particularly sensitive to issues that arrise in an institution when there are separate, seemingly incompatible artifact and archival databases in use at once, since in my day-job I do my condition and treatment documentation through the artifact database. KE and the like would I imagine be overkill in this situation, not to mention cost prohibitive. Would upgrading to the newest version of Filemaker and then adding fields to the pre-existing custom build be a good option? What about the various free and/or open source collection database options that I see when I search the internet?

      Archivist, Registrar and Collection Manager colleagues, please help a poor Conservator navigate the world of databases. What is the best, or what are a few good database options for a volunteer run organization with very little money?

    • #131904


      I built my own database in MS Access for costs and flexibility reasons. With a dedicated program like RE:discovery or PastPerfect you need tech support to change things or modify workings and you could pay through the nose at least for RE:D. I think a self-made system with additional fields could serve for both artifact and records as I have done.

      I feel your pain,

      Marybeth S.F. Tomka, M.A.
      Curator (Lead Curatorial Researcher)
      Center for Archaeological Research
      The University of Texas at San Antonio
      State Certified Curatorial Repository
      One UTSA Circle
      San Antonio, Texas 78249
      (210) 458-7822
      (210) 458-4397 Fax
      . . . herding cats in a forest of catnip . . .

    • #131903
      Janice Klein

      If you are going to modify a commercial database I would really recommend FileMaker Pro over MS Access. I have used FMP for large collections (20,000+) and for small and taught a volunteers with very limited computer skills to use it. You can get lots of help and support for FMP from the members of the Registrars listserv, which is free to join at


      Janice Klein
      Executive Director, Museum Association of Arizona

    • #131902
      Mary Ames Booker

      Talk with Past Perfect Museum Software. I have used their program for decades. It is not expensive and an extremely good program and technical support.

    • #131901
      amanda gould

      Thanks so much for your responses everyone.

    • #131900
      Linda Durham

      You might want to look at Collectify Collector’s Edition, a fully customizable collections management software used by a great many collectors and small museums. Please contact me if you would like extra info.

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