What is CollectionSpace?

CollectionSpace is a web-based, open-source software application for the description, management, and dissemination of museum collections information. The CollectionSpace team and community is made up of museum professionals, software engineers, and interaction designers. back to top

Why is CollectionSpace needed?

In 2007, the Heritage Health Index, a study conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Heritage Preservation, reported that almost a third of historical societies, a quarter of museums, and twenty percent of archaeological repositories had no catalog records at all. In addition, half of the collecting institutions in the United States had none of their collections available online. This information gap represented a lost opportunity for museums and points to a core community need.

Museums have been producing innovative, visitor-facing applications that take advantage of the latest technologies for years. Unfortunately, while many of these applications include information drawn from collections management systems, the collections management system itself is rarely improved as a result. CollectionSpace represents a paradigm shift in collections management technology, which will allow users to create a stable, authoritative, and flexible core of collections information from which interpretive materials and experiences – from printed catalogs and mobile gallery guides to research platforms – may be more effectively developed. back to top

What is Community Source?

“The Community Source Model is a hybrid model that blends elements of directed development, in the classic sense of an organization employing staff and resources to work on a project, and the openness of traditional open-source projects like Apache. The resulting software is available under an Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved license. The code can be examined, changed, redistributed, sold, or incorporated into other products without fee. Anyone can make changes, and subject to quality review, those changes can be incorporated back into an open-source application for the benefit of all.

The distinguishing feature of the Community Source Model is that many of the investments of developers’ time, design, and project governance come from institutional contributions by colleges, universities, and some commercial firms rather than from individuals. These contributions may be tendered as the first phase of a project, and then additional work may be contributed on an ongoing, voluntary basis by those institutions with a continuing interest in the project. The project often establishes a software framework and baseline functionality, and then the community develops additional features as needed over time.”

Wheeler, Bradley. “Open Source 2010: Reflections on 2007 | EDUCAUSE CONNECT.” back to top

Is the software free?

Yes. CollectionSpace is licensed for use pursuant to the Educational Community License v. 2.0. Learn more about the ECL. The source code is freely available. back to top

What does the software do?

Highlights of Features/Functionality

Documenting and managing the addition of objects and associated information to the collections of the organization, including their potential accession to the permanent collections.

The compilation and maintenance of key information, formally identifying and describing objects.

Data Import/Export
CollectionSpace import functionality supports importing files in XML (Extensible Markup Language). Any relationships present in the data are preserved on import. In addition, CollectionSpace has been integrated with the Talend Open Studio for ETL (extract, transform, load) workflows.

Data Entry Templates
Provides the ability to create records from existing records or to pre-defined templates for specific data entry needs.

Loans In/Out
Managing and documenting the borrowing and lending of objects for which the organization is responsible for a specific period of time and for a specific purpose, whether exhibition/display, research, conservation, education, or photography/publication.

Location and Movement
Management and documentation of information concerning the current and past locations of all objects or groups of objects in the organization’s care to ensure that the organization can locate any object at any time.

Media Handling
Provides the ability to upload a media file to the system or to link to a media file stored in an outside digital asset management system.

Object Entry/Exit
The management and documentation of the receipt of objects (and associated information) which are not currently part of the collections as well as the management and documentation of objects leaving the organization’s premises.

Reports are defined and installed in the system via integration with LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) JasperReports. Custom reports may be created using JasperReport’s iReport client application software. This software is downloadable for free from the JasperSoft website but is GPL (General Public License) licensed, and is therefore not included with a standard CollectionSpace installation.

Roles and Permissions
The management of system access, including read/write permissions for procedural, object, and organizational records.

Structured Dates
Provides a much greater degree of freedom when adding dates with beginning and end ranges and degrees of certainty. This enhanced date handling function provides the ability to tie objects to eras or periods rather than to specific dates. These dates are particularly useful for cataloging activities and the retrospective conversion of aging documentation. back to top

Are CollectionSpace schema / data dictionaries available for viewing and download?

Yes, all schema currently in-use, under consideration, and in-progress are available from the program wikiback to top

Is the software user-friendly?

CollectionSpace is committed to the principles of user-centered design. Our environments are developed to match the needs of real users, and our software is accessible and usable. Take the guided tour or try the online demo to see for yourself how easy CollectionSpace is to use. back to top

When can I start using CollectionSpace for my collections?

CollectionSpace is ready to use today. Visit the demo site to test-drive the software, or our download page for installation instructions. A complete list of system requirements for CollectionSpace is available on the wikiback to top

What types of technical skills are required in order to install and configure CollectionSpace?

The CollectionSpace platform is built upon Nuxeo, an open-source content management system. The services architecture is based on Apache Tomcat and a relational database such as PostgreSQL or MySQL; the server-side interface layer is built with Java; and the client-side (or user) interface is developed in HTML and Javascript. Schema are defined using XML.

Installing CollectionSpace requires someone comfortable with a command line interface and package manager (for Linux and Mac installations), and who has some familiarity with editing text files.

Configuration, or changing the behavior and the look and feel of the system, can be accomplished by making changes on web-based Administration pages and by editing the text files (HTML templates, CSS stylesheets, configuration files, etc.) that control its behavior and appearance. Familiarity with HTML, CSS, command line interfaces, and editing text files is required.

More extensive customizations that extend the system’s functionality require familiarity with Java for the service and server-side interface layers. Client-side customizations require knowledge of HTML, CSS, and the React.js JavaScript framework. back to top

Who will support us if we try to install CollectionSpace?

There are a variety of options for CollectionSpace support services.

  1. Ask other CollectionSpace users
  2. Work with the program staff
  3. Work with a service provider
  4. All of the above

Start by asking questions, engaging in conversation, and learning from colleagues on the Talk list. The CollectionSpace Talk list is an email list that is specifically focused on the needs of implementers. We want to hear from you and help you with your installation, and we want to encourage anyone who has already implemented to join in the conversation as well to share their experience. At the core of the CollectionSpace philosophy is the community source model (see What is Community Source?) an approach that values community contribution and encourages community members to help one another. We encourage you to join the Talk list, post your questions, and join the conversation!

Implementers use many different solutions for managing CollectionSpace, including in-house staff, developers hired for a specific period to install and configure the software, consultants to manage data mapping and gap analyses, and service providers who manage the entire process. To learn more about hosting and support offerings, you can visit the LYRASIS services page. back to top

When will versions of the software and documentation be available in other languages?

Our technology stack was designed to handle Unicode from the outset, ensuring that a full range of languages can be supported from the user interface all the way down to the database. Current versions of the software support an English-language User Interface, but any language can be used for museum information (metadata), and internationalization of many aspects is supported upon configuration. The system separates the labels and other language used to generate the UI into a separate resource, to facilitate translation. Translation projects are an excellent opportunity for those who are not software developers to contribute to the community! back to top