The California State Military Museums play a pivotal role in safeguarding the rich military heritage of California, with a significant collection of artifacts dating back to 1850. When the institution needed a collections management system that allowed for seamless collaboration across their multiple locations in California, they opted for CatalogIt. Learn more about the Museums’ journey transitioning from a desktop-based CMS to embracing CatalogIt as their comprehensive solution.
The California State Military Museums have a primary facility in Sacramento as well as three satellite museums at Camp Roberts, Camp San Luis Obispo, and the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. They house over 18,000 artifacts and archives located at about 70 geographic locations. "We are responsible for all state-owned and some federal-owned artifacts that are located in California to Oregon to Mexico," said Sergeant Major Daniel Sebby, the Director and Chief Curator of the California State Military Museums Program. The artifacts in their collection range from small to large, including pins, photographs, pieces of armor, tanks, and aircraft.
Initially, the California State Military Museums relied on a desktop-based CMS to document their artifacts. However, as the institution's needs changed, the limitations of a single computer system became apparent. "We just had [the CMS] on a standalone computer and it was great when we only had only one facility, but when I took on more responsibility for the entire state we decided that we needed to have a web-based system," said Sebby. “For those of us spread out all over the state, [a desktop system] is not practical.”
After discovering CatalogIt and receiving a product demonstration from its Co-Founder, Dan Rael, Sebby decided to look no further for a web-based CMS. CatalogIt's intuitive interface impressed Sebby. Unlike their previous system, CatalogIt allows data entry without needing to switch between pages, streamlining the cataloging process. Sebby also emphasizes the value of features like drop-down menus and the time-saving duplicate feature, which enhances usability.The Museums migrated their existing cataloged collection—about 4000 objects—seamlessly from their previous CMS to CatalogIt, and Sebby has been working to catalog and preserve more of their collection alongside his growing team ever since.
The California State Military Museums have found the learning curve for CatalogIt remarkably gentle. Both soldiers and volunteers with varying levels of computer proficiency have found it accessible and easy to grasp. When training new users, Sebby simply instructs them to "get in there and play with it!" After all, "you can't screw this up," Sebby continued. "Everything is fixable."
Moreover, CatalogIt's intuitive design and straightforward navigation mean that minimal training is required. New users who may need additional guidance can quickly familiarize themselves with the CMS through a wealth of instructional resources including video tutorials on www.catalogit.app. "The system is easy to learn and become proficient in," Dan noted. "It’s so intuitive that [everyone] just feels really comfortable with it."
Given Sebby's widespread team of staff and volunteers throughout the state, CatalogIt has proven instrumental in facilitating collaboration across various museum locations. Sebby and his team can take their tablets or smartphones to different sites, enabling them to photograph and catalog artifacts on the spot. This new process has helped the Museums bridge their geographical divide, enabling their distributed team to work together efficiently from anywhere, anytime.
"It also gives me the option to work from home," said Sebby, who will often start new entries by photographing an artifact with his phone and then adding detail to the entry from a computer later on. “It’s easy to take pictures with your phone and upload it without having to use a memory card." Having immediate access to the institution's growing catalog has been particularly convenient for Sebby, who said, "If I’m somewhere where there’s a [phone or] computer, I can log on and show people the collection."
Since transitioning to CatalogIt, the California State Military Museums have made significant progress in documenting their extensive collection. Over 18,000 artifacts have been documented, and it’s growing every week. "I use CatalogIt pretty much every day," said Sebby.
As their cataloging effort continues, the California State Military Museums have set ambitious goals for the future. They anticipate cataloging hundreds of thousands of artifacts, preserving a more comprehensive history of military heritage in California. With CatalogIt as their partner, the journey to digitize and share this rich heritage is well underway, promising exciting possibilities for the Museums’ preservation efforts and accessibility.