What is CultureObject?
CultureObject is a WordPress plugin which talks to various third party museum and archive collections management systems. It is used to suck in data that is exposed by these systems so that the data is native to WordPress.
Why is this useful?
CultureObject lets you get your museum or archive collections data onto the web.
Aren’t there other ways of doing this?
Yes. Typically there are a couple of ways you can get collections data out of your collections management system and onto the web:
1) “Plug and play”
Firstly, many vendors provide a “plugin and play” option which provides you with a collections-focused website which can be rapidly populated with chosen data from your CM system.
Now, although this is easy, it can be lacking:
> This approach typically produces a whole separate site / domain where your collection data is surfaced, for instance collections.yoursite.com. This is bad for a couple of reasons: i) your “Google Juice” isn’t improved (Google just sees this as what it is – a separate site to your existing one), ii) you normally have extremely limited control over how this separate site looks and works, iii) it usually ends up looking horrible 🙂
> You often have to pay for a separate “internet server” license
> You are usually tied to your CM vendor if you want to make any technical changes.
2) “Build it yourself”
Many CM vendors provide an API for your collections data. This is a good thing because it means you can get your content out and do other things for it. This “other thing” can be “getting our collection online”.
This approach can be very powerful – you can basically put together (bespoke) systems which talk to your CM system, pull out the data and then put this on the web. On the up-side you end up with something that is absolutely what you want.
The downside is that this is often complicated (hence expensive): you’ll need to hire a pretty good developer and designer to do this work for you.
We think that CultureObject provides a “third way” for getting collections content online.
1) WordPress is a fantastic fit for museums and non-profits.
Here are some of the reasons:
- It’s incredibly easy for non-technical editors to use
- It’s very flexible to develop for
- It’s Open Source
- It has a huge and supportive developer / designer community
- You can get your content in and out in various, well-defined and supported formats – i.e you’re not tied to the platform if you need to move away from it.
In short – WordPress is (and has been for about 3-4 years now), about the best solution there is for content management – and we think for cultural content management too.
Of course other solutions do exist – Drupal, Joomla, Umbraco, self-build. If you’re using one of these for your main site then you won’t be able to use CultureObject within it – but you can of course set up a subsite or subdomain which does use WordPress and run it here.
2) We import data so it it native to WordPress
When you run a CultureObject import, the data is brought in as a Custom Post Type within WordPress. Once it is here you’ll not only see it in the interface (by default as an “Object” post type) and be able to edit records – but more importantly this means you can do powerful things with your object records. By powerful we mean things like:
- ..easily featuring an “object of the week” on your homepage by selecting the object from a dropdown
- ..having a “random object” sidebar
- ..dropping objects into online exhibitions, web pages or blog posts
- ..using object data as part of a newsletter builder within WordPress
..and so on.
3) You get the full capability of WordPress development and design
One of the reasons WordPress is so powerful and so popular is that there is absolutely no limit to how you can make it look (and a huge scope for how you make it work, too).
By using CultureObject, you are basically using WordPress as a wrapper around your cultural object records. This means you can build things like…
- ..a collections-focused site which is fully responsive for mobile and tablet devices – and one that looks exactly as you want it to look
- ..a mobile web app with functionality that allows people to “collect” objects
- ..an internal tool to allow curators to search, comment on or provide feedback on object data
- ..a system which lets users order images of collections objects
…etc etc etc..