General FAQ's

Below are answers to some general questions about  CollectionSpace that you may find helpful. Have more questions and don’t see an answer here? Email us at collectionspace@lyrasis.org. 

What is CollectionSpace?

CollectionSpace is a web-based, open-source collections information management system in daily use at dozens of museums and other collecting organizations. From cataloging and loans to inventory and digital asset management, CollectionSpace is used to manage many of the day-to-day activities of museum collections professionals and others who work with art, artifacts, objects, and specimens.

CollectionSpace is backed by an internationally recognized non-profit committed to advancing the field of museology. The CollectionSpace team and community is made up of museum professionals, software engineers, and interaction designers.

Is CollectionSpace open source?

CollectionSpace is open-source software, licensed for use pursuant to the Educational Community License v. 2.0. Learn more about the ECL. The source code is freely available.

What are the features and functionality of CollectionSpace?

Highlights of CollectionSpace Features and Functionality

  • Standards-based collections management with support for cataloging, accession and deaccession workflows, loans, exhibitions, and location management
  • Flexible public collections browser, built to integrate with existing content management systems
  • Robust tools to store and describe a wide variety of digital assets, including images, documents, audio, and video files
  • Custom and imported vocabularies to manage people, places, concepts, and more
  • A library of pre-built reports and integration with Jaspersoft, an open source reporting tool for custom forms and reports
  • CSV import tool to streamline data import workflows
  • Full text search and indexing backed by a powerful Elasticsearch engine
  • Web-based, responsive interface with no licenses or limits on user accounts
Is CollectionSpace 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.

What kind of support is available if we implement?

There are a variety of options for CollectionSpace support services.

  1. Ask other CollectionSpace users
  2. Work with the program staff
  3. Work with LYRASIS
  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. 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.

What does the CollectionSpace Technical Roadmap look like?

Our technical roadmap is publicly accessible and can be found at this link.

Our roadmap is generated from community input. Can't find a feature you're interested in? We are happy to help coordinate grant requests or finding resources to investigate new features and functionality, just drop us a line at collectionspace@lyrasis.org.

Technical FAQ's

Here are some answers to commonly asked technical questions. If you have more specific questions, you can check out our TALK Listserv archives or email us at collectionspace@lyrasis.org. 

How do I get started with CollectionSpace?

To get started, you can dive right in with our Quick Start Manual. From there, you can dive in to more advanced topics with our full user manual and associated videos, all of which are available to access at any time on our wiki.

What does web-based mean? Is it the same as cloud based?

CollectionSpace is a web-based application. It is installed on a server, and accessed over a network connection through a web browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. CollectionSpace users do not need to install any additional software on their computers.

CollectionSpace can be cloud-based, which just means that the server that it's installed on is remote, i.e. not physically located in your museum.

CollectionSpace can be hosted on-premises, in the cloud on a server that your organization manages, or in the cloud on a server that a hosting provider like LYRASIS manages.

Can I self-host CollectionSpace? What technical skills are required?

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.

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.

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.

Are the data dictionaries available for viewing and download?

Yes, all schema currently in-use, under consideration, and in-progress are available from the program wiki.

Is CollectionSpace offered 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!

How are backups handled?

Backup for CollectionSpace is done at the system administrator level - there are no backup controls in the front-end user interface. The backup requirements for CollectionSpace can be summarized as:

  • Backup two Postgres databases (authorization and content databases)
  • Backup binaries for media stored on filesystem (optional: Amazon S3 for binary storage)
  • Backup configuration used to deploy CollectionSpace
  • Backup ElasticSearch index if enabled (can also be regenerated if not backed up)

For LYRASIS hosted instances:

LYRASIS is responsible for daily backups of CollectionSpace, and restoring from backup at no cost to the client in the event of catastrophic failure. You can find out more about LYRASIS Hosting here.

Do you support batch processing of data?

CollectionSpace supports several forms of batch processing, depending on your specific use case. Most implementers will find the CSV Import Tool the best way to make global changes to data. The CSV Import Tool is available at no extra cost to LYRASIS hosting clients, and can be freely downloaded and installed by self-hosting implementers.

What data structures/standards does CollectionSpace support?

CollectionSpace uses the SPECTRUM documentation standard as the basis for its data structure standard.

CollectionSpace users may develop their own vocabularies, authorities, and lists, or import existing lists. We do have some recommendations on importing specific file types, but can work with users to import and include the entire Nomenclature.