Brian of Antietam on the Web has been working with various open source CMSes for a historical website, and he’s going with WordPress.

It comes down to the fastest and easiest way to get function online with minimum investment.

WordPress is accessible and well-documented and has lots of plugins available. For a small organization without too much in the way of collections or content, WP could be extremely useful, especially in terms of available time and tech know-how. (The user I’m always thinking about is the one staff person at the county historical society, who’s trying to keep the lights on and the roof from leaking but has no time to learn PHP.) I’m excited to see what Brian comes up with.

I’m reminded that I haven’t been paying attention to the archival community and what those folks have been developing in terms of open-source content management systems. Here’s a several-months-old roundup of three archival CMSes. Note that Archon is now in 1.11.  From an admittedly quick look at the programs, and Mark’s comments about possible lack of user support, a historical society without a trained archivist but with a collection including objects, etc., would probably do well using an ‘off-the-shelf CMS,’ as Brian calls them, rather than a specifically archival program.

Another option, of course, is buying PastPerfect, which has excellent support (and is now more sophisticated and less buggy in 4.0), and building yourself a separate website.  Here’s an example of a PP database made searchable on a county historical society website (ignore the frames and click on ‘collections.’) 

But if your organization doesn’t have the $600-$800 for one license or, you know, you’re committed to open source and interoperable formats, the work folks are doing with tools that are freely available will continue to be exciting and vital.