Conservation management features have been part of The Museum System (TMS) from its beginning. When Jay Hoffman, CEO of Gallery Systems, was developing the first Windows version of TMS for the Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1990s, the museum’s need for software to track the condition, rehousing, and location of the textiles being moved to the center was a driving force. Jay worked from an office in the Met basement, and his regular dialogue with textile conservators helped shape details of the software. Since then, Gallery Systems has continued to build new conservation features, reflecting needs expressed by our growing community of users. Many museums are successfully using TMS as a central repository for their conservation information and related images.
In 2009, Gallery Systems formed a Conservation Working Group, consisting of about 50 stakeholders, most of them conservators. The group met regularly through 2012. The goal was to explore the changing data management requirements and aspirations of the conservation community. One tangible result was a set of wireframe plans detailing approaches to both specific data needs, such as managing environmental requirements, and broader organizational issues, such as collaboration on complex projects.
It became evident that rather than designing incremental new TMS features, we were, in fact, designing an ambitious new product focused on the needs of conservators. It would be web-based, and it would include two new modules: Conservation Reports and Projects. It would have a close, sister-product relationship with TMS, with direct links to related collections and exhibitions management data. We named the product Conservation Studio.
The programming of Conservation Studio began in 2013 with work done on the underlying technical frameworks. By early 2014, features for viewing and editing data were being developed, and by July, enough was done that we could begin to demo work-in-progress to a small number of museums. Preliminary feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. As Conservation Studio becomes more feature-complete, we are starting to show it more widely, including a preview at our Collective Imagination conference in Vienna in October 2014. Release is planned for the summer of 2015.