Migrating Your Legacy Collection Data: FAQ

You already know the benefits of upgrading your collection management system to take advantage of all the latest advances in technology and practice, but you may already have a large investment in your legacy data, and you’ll want to preserve that investment. To help you better understand the process of migrating your legacy data into TMS, we’ve gathered the answers to our most commonly asked questions.

Why Would we Need a TMS Data Conversion?

If you have existing legacy data from an earlier era’s collection system, or are transitioning from Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, or FileMaker, or if you have acquired a large collection that needs to be added to your TMS system, you will likely need a TMS data conversion to consolidate all your collections information in a single, up-to-date system.

How Long Does the Process Take?­­­­

Every data conversion project is unique, depending on such factors as the number of data fields to be converted, specific workflow requirements, the consistency of the current data, and the overall vision for the collection.  Some data conversions may take a few days, weeks, or longer, depending on complexity.

What Happens During a Data Conversion Project?

Although each conversion is unique, key milestones include:

  • Data Analysis & Review
  • Data Mapping & Formatting
  • Test Conversion
  • Final Conversion
  • Application Training

For more detail, refer to our sample conversion timeline.

Who is Involved in a Data Conversion?

In addition to your Gallery Systems conversion team, a migration project involves staff members from your institution. The people involved may include the following:

Your Team Gallery Systems Team
Project Leader Account Manager
Database Administrator Project Manager
Key/Core Users Data Conversion Specialist
IT Administrator IT/Systems Administrator
Training Specialist
Quality Assurance Specialist


Data conversion is a team effort and will usually require input from your Information Technology, Curatorial, and Collection departments. To streamline communication, we recommend assigning one staff member as the main liaison between your institution and Gallery Systems during the project. We suggest that this team leader be someone who has worked closely with your collection data.

Do We Have a Say in How Our Data Is Mapped and Displayed?

Absolutely. Your institution’s needs and requirements drive the direction of your TMS implementation. We collaborate with you to refine the format of your database and determine the best approach to meet your needs, with regular, scheduled meetings with our conversion team.

Gallery Systems also offers a wide variety of customization support. If you require specialized data views, list views, reports, or forms, we can provide these services to ensure the new database meets institutional goals.

Viewing and Organizing Our Collection Data from This Perspective is New to Us. Will Gallery Systems Provide Advice and Assistance with Data Assessment and Planning?

Yes. Gallery Systems is always available to answer questions. Our data migration specialists are not only technical experts, but also have years of experience in TMS, museums, and collections management, and can provide concrete suggestions backed by industry expertise.

What Should We Do to Prepare?

Before a conversion project begins, Gallery Systems will assess your legacy data and work with you to learn about your collection goals, in order to develop the best plan of action.

Some points to consider in advance:

  • Are you planning to publish your collection online?
  • Who will be the “power users” of your new TMS database?
  • What training options will be preferable for your team?
  • Which departments should have access to TMS? What information will be important to them?
  • Will interns and volunteers have a role in your process?
  • Which fields does your current system lack that you would like to have in TMS?
  • Are there fields in your current system that you wouldn’t want converted into TMS?

How Secure is Your Legacy Data During the Conversion Process?

All of your data is securely hosted on our data servers during all phases of the data conversion process.

After your data conversion is complete, you may choose to use Gallery System’s managed hosting service.  With this option, Gallery Systems provides full remote hosting services, including server and equipment management, web-based access, full nightly database backups, and regular upgrades and security health-checks.

Can the Scope of a Project Change?

Some factors can affect the flow of a conversion project once it begins. Data cleanup can reveal potential changes, such as discovery of additional legacy data sources for integration or new customization needs. Your Gallery Systems Project Manager with work with you to help identify and address these needs as they arise.

What Happens after the Conversion is Complete?

The Gallery Systems team will work with you to configure your database, including adding users and setting up security so you can go live with TMS and begin your data entry. At this point, your team will proceed with application training.

Data Conversion At-A-Glance

Each data conversion can be different, so conversion timelines vary. This sample timetable summarizes key steps for a medium-sized data migration project.


Send Us Your Data

Prior to signing a contract with Gallery Systems, we’ll coordinate with you to obtain a copy of your data for analysis.

Some examples of common file formats are:

  • SQL Backup (.bak)
  • MS Access (.mdb)
  • CSV (.csv)

If you are unable to send your data in one of these formats, our team will work with you to find a viable alternative.

Our team will assess the extent and consistency of your data in order to provide a cost estimate and a data table report.

Once your agreement has been finalized, the Gallery Systems conversion team may proceed with the data set previously submitted for your estimate, or implement a refreshed data set.

We’ll then work with you to further analyze and map your data fields.


Data Mapping and Test Conversion Begins

Based on the data table report created during the estimate phase, Gallery Systems will create a detailed data map that lists all the tables and fields exported from your legacy system, as well as other key data statistics.

The resulting document is the roadmap for your conversion process.

Gallery Systems specialists will work with you to determine the best approach to mapping your legacy collection information. Guided by your requirements and consultation, Gallery Systems will map your data and thoroughly test the conversion programming before the test conversion handoff and review.


Data Analysis and Cleanup

Alongside your team, Gallery Systems will analyze your test conversion and may identify fields that require cleaning prior to processing your production TMS database.

Most data cleanup is performed after the data migration is completed, using tools provided by Gallery Systems, such as the TMS Importer, the Constituent Merge tool, batch record updating, and search and replace functions.


Test Iteration Delivered


Gallery Systems will provide a test conversion in a virtual “sandbox” — where you can log in and safely experiment with your trial database and make comments. More than one test iteration may be delivered, if required.


Conversion Review Training

Your conversion review combines basic application training with a review of your test iteration. During this phase, you’ll learn how to navigate TMS and become comfortable enough with the system to properly examine your conversion data.

Client Review and Confirmation

After your team has spent time reviewing the test iteration, you’ll have an opportunity to submit feedback.

Our data conversion team will work with you to assess your feedback and make any necessary changes.

Depending on the needs of your contract, additional feedback sessions may be scheduled.

Data Freeze After data mapping sign-off, you’ll be ready for your final iteration.

On the mutually agreed-upon date, your team will end data entry into your legacy system and send us a final “frozen” data set.

Gallery Systems will use this data to process your production TMS database.

We know how important it is for you to resume working with your data and will return your database as quickly as possible. The size of the project will define the amount of time the process takes, and may last anywhere from one to two days, or longer.


Final Conversion Delivered

As soon as your final data conversion is ready, we’ll either work with your team to install and configure your database on your servers, or, if you’ve purchased Gallery Systems Managed Hosting, our team will deliver direct access to your hosted database.

Systems Administration training may also take place at this time.


TMS Training

Depending on the terms of your agreement, your users will receive either Core Application training or Systems Administration training, or both.

In most cases, training occurs after delivery of your final iteration, but it can also take place before or after the official “Go-Live” depending on your scheduling.

Go Live Congratulations, welcome to the TMS community! You may begin data entry in your new collection management system.

Your Project Manager will also help ease your transition into our community and introduce a variety of helpful resources to get you started.



About the Author:

Illyana Saunderson
Illyana Saunderson has been with Gallery Systems for over 10 years; as Marketing Communications Specialist she organizes Collective Imagination, Gallery Systems’ Users Conference, and contributes to various web and communication projects. When she’s not working on case studies, designing ads, or reviewing metrics, you can find her photographing her latest kitchen creations for her blog, crafting, or prancing around a dance studio.

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