Designing a museum collection WordPress site

This year I am pleased to be involved with helping a small museum get established with an online presence.  It is run by a team of dedicated volunteers who have a fairly large number of items which need to be catalogued. We decided at the outset that any system we designed should be compliant with the industry standards and so I have based the solution on Spectrum 5.0, which is the UK collection management standard produced by The Collections Trust.

Spectrum has 9 primary procedures which outline the minimum requirements needed to meet the standards.  These are more to do with ensuring that correct procedures are followed than with the software. However a good software system can facilitate the process and this is the basis of the project.

The following pages explain how to build a dedicated collection management system using WordPress.

Create a new site with the appropriate plugins

The intention is that the collection site itself is not a publicly available website. The collections database should only be accessed by the curators of the museum and its purpose is primarily as a database for the collection and to manage movement and storage of the objects.

A separate public site which is managed as a normal website can draw data from the collection by means of an API.  This will be explained further in a later post.


Get a url for the collection. The collection can be on a separate domain or as a sub domain of your current site.  For the purposes of this article I will assume you have installed the new WordPress site in a directory called ‘collection’  which is directly under the root of the main site. Eg.

Essential plugins

We will need to add custom post types, taxonomies and new user roles to the system.  This can be done by creating some custom code but for convenience  we will use a couple of plugins.

User roles – User Role Editor

Custom Post Types – CustomPress

Configure the plugins

1. User Role Editor

From the Users menu item, select User Role Editor

From this screen select ‘Add role’ and enter the following in the pop-up screen

The curator role is now added but it doesn’t have permissions to do anything.  We will add these in the next step.

2. CustomPress

We use this plugin to create the custom post types.

These are – object, location, movable_unit, location_history, object_image, acquisition

Choose CustomPress –> Content Types  from the menu.

Click the ‘Post Types’ Tab

Click the ‘Add Post Type’ button

The next screen allows you to enter all the parameters necessary to create a custom post type.

Follow the project WordPress for Collections to find out more.