Supporting the long-term curation and migration of natural history museum collections databases

Andrea K. Thomer, Nicholas M. Weber, Michael B. Twidale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Migration of data collections from one platform to another is an important component of data curation – yet, there is surprisingly little guidance for information professionals faced with this task. Data migration may be particularly challenging when these data collections are housed in relational databases, due to the complex ways that data, data schemas, and relational database management software become intertwined over time. Here we present results from a study of the maintenance, evolution and migration of research databases housed in Natural History Museums. We find that database migration is an on-going – rather than occasional – process for many Collection managers, and that they creatively appropriate and innovate on many existing technologies in their migration work. This paper contributes descriptions of a preliminary set of common adaptations and “migration patterns” in the practices of database curators. It also outlines the strategies they use when facing collection-level data migration and describes the limitations of existing tools in supporting LAM and “small science” research database migration. We conclude by outlining future research directions for the maintenance and migration of collections and complex digital objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-513
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Data curation
  • database migration
  • museum informatics
  • natural history museums

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Library and Information Sciences


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