PastPerfect Software review

PastPerfect Software Evaluation Version

Many museums now use some sort of database program to manage the cataloging of their collections.  Anyone in a museum job that works with collections such as a registrar, collections manager, archivist, curator, etc. needs to be able to use a collections database.  PastPerfect Software is one of the most popular collections databases currently in use.

PastPerfect offers a free evaluation version of their program that can be downloaded from their website  under the Products & Services tab.   The same page provides links to video resources on their Youtube channel and links to their complete user guide.

PastPerfect Evaluation Version download page
PastPerfect Evaluation Version download page

Using the free evaluation version with the videos and the user guide is an excellent method for learning how to use a collections database and learning about the process of accessioning (formally bringing in) items into a museum collection.




Pros: PastPerfect Evaluation Version is essentially the same of their full version but limited to about 200 records and does not include any of the optional add-ins such PastPerfect online or Inventory Manager.

PastPerfect home page
PastPerfect home page



The three videos listed on the evaluation download page will provide the basics on how to navigate through PastPerfect, add catalog records and conduct searches.  Other videos available through their Youtube channel provide additional information on how to conduct more in-depth searches, use the lexicon/Nomenclature 3.0 and highlight some of the optional features of the full version.
Version 5 bases its lexicon for naming for items on Chenhall’s Revised Nomenclature 3.0 which is the standard system used by museums and archives to assign the proper names to items, so it’s a good method for becoming familiar with nomenclature.

PastPerfect catalog record
PastPerfect catalog record

The entire User Guide can be downloaded as PDFs and it is possible to learn how to use all of PastPerfect by going through the User Guide chapter by chapter.

Tutorials on CD on “Cataloging Collections”, “Research and Reporting” and “Managing Contacts, Donations and Membership” are available for $39 each or $110 for all three which also includes the user guide.  This would be a good investment for someone who is serious about learning this skill.

PastPerfect has excellent and helpful customer service for anyone who has bought one of their products.

Cons: Because PastPerfect is so comprehensive, it can seem like a daunting task to learn how to use it.  Having more tutorials available on the YouTube channel on how to use the software would be nice, but they also want people to buy their products so they can’t make everything free.

The search, research and report features are very good but the learning curve is fairly steep with each.  Working through the tutorials on these sections is especially recommended.

I would highly recommend that anyone who is interested in working in a museum  job that works with collections items download the free evaluation version of PastPerfect and take some time to familiarize themselves with it.  Museum interns often spend a lot of time working on cataloging and knowing how to use a collections database will be a good skill to list on a resume when applying for internships.













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