Content Management System

From DARC (Digital Archive Research Collective)
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What is a Content Management System (CMS)? How does it differ from a regular ol’ website?

Once you are ready to host your content, you should consider the ways you might want to do that. If you are already familiar with web development, you can build a website for your archival project from scratch (e.g. coding with html, css, javascript). However, most archival projects utilize a configurable Content Management System (CMS) to host, organize, and present their collections. A CMS offers you built-in functionality allowing you to manage digital/digitized objects and content, including but not limited to audio, images, videos, and texts.

How do you want to organize, store, and present your materials? When deciding what type of CMS is right for your project, consider the following questions about purpose, content, metadata, access, and ease of use:

  • What is the purpose of the site? Is it mainly for you to share your content? To manage your content? Thinking about the purpose can help narrow down your choices. CMS like Omeka and Mukurtu can offer you the ability to exhibit your digital content in meaningful collections.
  • What type of content are you working with? Your archival project may involve different types of media and content that can impact the type of CMS you choose. For example, projects with long forms of text may benefit from using WordPress to manage collections of essays. Projects that are centered around collections of images may benefit from a CMS like Omeka, which is helpful for organizing sets of images.
  • What kind of metadata do you want to display? The metadata attached to your content can help you manage and organize your collection in meaningful ways. Certain CMS already comes with particular metadata fields that can be useful to you, and many offer customizations. For example, Omeka is great at hosting and curating images (e.g. photos of a sculpture), and offers metadata fields that is typical of this form (e.g. size of sculpture).
  • What kind of access do you want to offer? Maybe your archival project requires different levels of access to it. For example, you may not want sensitive information to be publicly accessible. Certain CMS like Murkutu can allow different levels of user access, from completely open to restricted access.
  • How comfortable are you with digital platforms and tools? Certain CMS may feel more familiar or easier to different users. If you have used a blogging platform, WordPress sites may feel more comfortable. If you would like to be able to customize as much of your site as possible and comfortable working with modules or databases, Drupal might be a better option.
  • Do you prefer to use open-source or proprietary digital tools? There are a lot of CMS that are free and/or open access, though these typically have a higher barrier of entry than proprietary tools. Remember, you will likely have to pay to host your site, too!