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November 28, 2012

CMS stands for Collections Management System. This is the National Trusts inventory system and every property belonging to the NT has its collection catalogued on CMS. Previously each property only had access to its own inventory but now we are able to see objects at properties far and wide.

 The reasons for centrally cataloguing are many and varied but chief among them is that in the event of a fire or the laptop which contained the record being stolen, the property would lose a huge amount of information on its collection. It has also allowed the National Trust to set up a website called collections online (, which is a public version of our inventory. Sayyou are a huge fan of a particular artist or you had a particular penchant for Chinese ceramics you could search collections online and draw up a list of must visit properties!

 Each object should also have a set of photographs to go with it, these are useful in the event of a theft, they allow us to advertise the fact we’ve had an object stolen and make it difficult for a thief to sell on. They also mean we have a clear record of any damage to an item – chips, worn decoration etc, so that we can see any decline in the objects condition clearly. They are most useful when trying to find an item in storage, when its description might only say “brown wooden chair” which we may have 30 of, if we can see the exact shape and decoration etc we can lay our hands on it quicker.

Ascot Racing Game

An example of a photograph from CMS

 These photographs have to meet very specific criteria in order to be appropriate for use on CMS. They need to be well lit and in focus as a starting point, but beyond that they also need to show the object from several angles, depending on what the object is. If it is part of a set you need a photograph of the whole set plus each item needs a separate photo, and if it’s a tea pot with a lid, you need to separately photograph each! Plus additional photos of specific areas of damage and any makers marks. Phew, that’s a lot of photos!

 At Cragside we have somewhere in the region of 17,000 objects and with only around 2,000 of them having digital images so far, we have a long way to go to get our records up to scratch. That’s where our volunteer photography team come in. They come in about once a week during our winter closed season until so much of the collections has been put away that there’s nothing left to photograph!


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