Web Publishing as a Tool for the Raupp Museum’s Cultural Preservation and Community Engagement

By Haley Twist, CatalogIt 

Nestled in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, the Raupp Museum stands as a testament to the importance of preserving local history and making it accessible. With a commitment to empowering their community to participate in preservation and an ever-growing collection that spans generations, Raupp Museum staff sought to streamline collections management, leading to the transition from a legacy system to a cloud-based CMS. Learn how the staff’s web publishing efforts shaped their journey toward more effective collections management, cultural preservation, and community engagement.

Transitioning a Cloud-Based CMS for Efficiency and Volunteer Participation

The Raupp Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the heritage of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. As part of the Buffalo Grove Park District, the Raupp Museum is home to a collection of thousands of archives, objects, and photographs representing the village’s history. As the cultural preserver of Buffalo Grove’s past, the museum centers on accessibility and provides educational programming for area residents and beyond. “Part of our mission is to make the collection as accessible as possible, including all the people who cannot come to the museum to access the collection in person,” said Marina Mayne, Raupp Museum Registrar and Public Educator.

The Raupp Museum is home to a collection of objects, photographs, and archives including over 10,000 historic receipts from the village’s former general store.

Marina had this mission in mind when selecting a new cataloging system in 2022. Raupp Museum staff had been using two different systems to document and share their collections: a desktop-based legacy CMS and an open-source web publishing platform. Using two different systems was tedious for Marina and her growing team of volunteers. “It was proving to be a lot of work because I would have to upload things into both [systems], so I had to do it twice,” said Marina. “Additionally, our volunteer program was growing, so I wanted a system that was easier to train our volunteers on so that they could work on our collection as well.”

A large portion of the Raupp Museum’s collection is now available for anyone to browse at any time on their CatalogIt HUB page.

Improving the Process: Utilizing QR Codes and Capturing the Object’s Full Story

Dissatisfied with the complexities of using two systems while seeking to streamline the museum’s documentation and web publishing processes, Marina sought an all-inclusive solution and ultimately selected CatalogIt as the museum’s new CMS. “We needed something both comprehensive and affordable,” said Marina. “The interface was the easiest for people to use. Even our volunteers who have seen both systems have expressed how easy it is to use.” Additionally, having a cloud-based system accommodates Marina’s team working from various locations in the museum or working from home. “CatalogIt makes it easier to access [the collection] from multiple devices,” said Marina.

The mobile app and its built-in QR Code functionality simplified Marina’s documentation and introduced unexpected benefits. “The QR Code option was great, too; I’ve integrated that into our labels and inventories within the collections boxes,” said Marina. She now generates location QR Codes from the mobile app and applies them directly on the museum’s collection boxes. ”That ended up being an additional plus that I was not anticipating!” The ability to easily access object data through a quick scan of the QR Code on the outside of the box proved to be preferable for internal organization. “Having the QR Code to scan is better for the care of the object,” she said. “You can just bring up [the entry record] on your phone to see the object. It’s a great conservation and preservation tool because you don’t have to open the box or handle the artifacts to figure out everything inside. The QR Codes make it easy to find that information fast.”

The transition to this new CMS marked a significant improvement in the Raupp Museum’s ongoing documentation process. The richness of relationships, tags, and a focused approach to capturing details became integral to their cataloging, enabling the museum to document more of their objects’ stories. “There is so much about the life of an object that you can include, such as exhibits; relationships the object has to other places, events, or people; what has happened to it in its condition; etc.,” said Marina. “It also helps to add as many terms as you need for your community. We can add as many things as we need to for people who are searching Buffalo Grove history.”

The Raupp Museum staff utilizes the richness of their CMS’s relationships and tags, capturing more details about their objects than ever before.

Empowering the Community to Participate in Preservation through Web Publishing

With a new CMS in place, publishing the museum’s collection to the web became a crucial step. “Part of the museum’s mission is to preserve and make the collections accessible, I think the CatalogIt HUB helps us in a big way to do that second part,” said Marina. A large portion of the Raupp Museum’s collection is now available for anyone to browse at any time, and is conveniently linked from their website. Having a searchable online database has aided in engaging local researchers and students working on projects. “We hope that sharing the collection online has helped serve all different parts of our community,” said Marina.

Since the museum first began to publish its collection to the web, the growing collection became a bridge for the Raupp Museum’s community, extending beyond physical boundaries. “Founding [Buffalo Grove] families have descendants all over the United States,” Marina said. “We have found [the online collection] to be useful with genealogy research, or even looking back at the history of your school and old yearbooks.” Real-life stories emerged, like community members identifying family members, contributing memories, and enhancing the overall narrative of the collection. Marina recalled a particularly touching encounter with a community member who spotted one of their ancestors in a photo that the museum had posted on Facebook. The person had lost many family pictures in a fire and was thankful to the museum for sharing that image online. “It was such a meaningful thing for us,” said Marina. “We want people to connect to their own history and also the town’s history.”

Tips and Encouragement for Other Small Museums

With a comprehensive web publishing process in place and an ever-growing online collection, Marina encourages other museums to make their collections more discoverable and accessible through web publishing. “It’s really important that we keep putting more information online, and I hope that other small museums can see it, too,” she said. “It’s important for the community, schools, researchers, etc.” This is now an integral part of the Raupp Museum’s documentation process. “The system itself is easy to use, and we can control what information people see. We can show as many relationships or information as we would like to,” Marina continued. “We can also group [collection records] by folders that make the most sense for people coming to our website.”

A link to the Raupp Museum’s collection is easily found on their website.

Looking ahead, Marina envisions conducting a full inventory of the museum with the app, making all information accessible online, and possibly even integrating CatalogIt’s API for a seamless, branded appearance for publishing from their collections on their own website. With thousands of photographs, objects, and historic receipts from the village’s general store, the museum aspires to continue digitizing and sharing a wealth of information.

Lastly, Marina encourages her peers to embrace cloud-based collections management. “A lot of small museums are volunteer-run or have limited staff. I encourage them to use CatalogIt,” she said. “Their small museum collections are just as important as big museums. We all contribute to collective history and knowledge. The HUB makes it easy for you to make the public included in that process.”