museum database

Client name . Victoria and Albert Museum

Sector . Culture, history and tourism

Summary comment . Rebecca Lim, Head of South Kensington Exhibitions
Summary comment . Victoria and Albert Museum

"We'd been using FileMaker, but in a very basic way. We knew it could do a lot more. Now we have a more user-friendly, integrated system that helps give us a wide overview across our exhibitions and loans operations."

"The simple and easy-to-use solution Cordis developed has helped us streamline our processes, and significantly improve the way we manage our exhibitions, all without the inconvenience of changing the technology that underpins it."

Victoria and Albert Museum

FileMaker Joins the V&A Team (Museum Database)

Established in 1851 during the Great Exhibition, the Victoria and Albert Museum is today one of the largest in the world with a collection in excess of 4.5-million items spanning 5,000 years of history from the ancient world to the modern era. Every year, more than two-million people visit the museum and many more view V&A works on loan to other institutions. In addition to the permanent collection, the V&A hosts special exhibitions on an eclectic range of subjects – anything from fashion and design to architecture, celebrity and more.

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The Client Challenge

Responsible for managing and maintaining one of the world's largest collections of art and design objects, the V&A devotes a great deal of effort to loaning out objects from the collection. This activity helps build an even bigger audience for the collections. The V&A also offers entire exhibitions to venues in the UK and overseas. The museum also borrows objects from major museums worldwide and hosts temporary exhibitions. Managing the movement of these priceless objects and exhibitions is a huge logistical challenge.

The FileMaker Solution

The V&A has been using a relatively basic FileMaker application for years to record the inflow and outflow of objects. But the system was not relational. There was no cross-referencing of data between staff members and across projects. With a large number of items moving into and out of the museum every year and with over 30 exhibitions being presented worldwide, it was essential to get a top-down view into exactly what was being offered, accepted or declined, loaned to and borrowed from whom.

The new solution was designed and implemented by FBA Platinum member Cordis.

Organisational benefits

  • Contact management system stores and manages an up-to-date record of key individuals at museums and venues worldwide. In addition to basic information, the system keeps a record of items loaned or borrowed, what sort of objects are of interest to whom and what communications have been made and are ongoing.
  • Incoming objects are recorded and managed. Records are kept of item descriptions, dimensions, packing and shipping requirements, conservation work underway or required, lux and humidity levels, display requirements, valuation and insurance and much more.
  • Credits and acknowledgments can be attached to all items showing the author or creator name, the name of the institution owning the piece and, if required, the name and an acknowledgment of the original donor.
  • Funding organisation details or sponsorship information can be attached to single items or entire exhibitions.
  • Outgoing items are recorded and managed and similar records kept. When items are loaned out, records can be easily exported to the receiving venue.
  • FileMaker solution helps manage the promotion of exhibitions to external venues. System gives all staff members visibility into who has been contacted about what exhibition and what response has been received.
  • System cross-references exhibit items to avoid possible conflicts where one object is attached to more than one exhibition.
  • Easy searching by research or market interests help target potential venues with demonstrated prior interest.

Photos: Jameel Gallery © Richard Waite. Jewellery Gallery © Edina van der Wyck. The John Madejski Garden © Morley von Sternberg.

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