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August, 2019

Most Popular Content Management Systems Used by the Largest Museums in the US

Chris Steins
Chris Steins
Founder & Senior Advisor

A website is a powerful tool for communicating the value of a museum's art and experience. There's little question that the web has made it easier for museums to extend their reach, but how this is being accomplished varies. Research by Urban Insight finds that two content management systems dominate when it comes to the largest museums in the U.S.

CMS Usage is Different for Museums

Of the top 1 million sites online, WordPress currently stands out as the content management system of choice with over 33% saturation. This is followed by Drupal with just over 3% of the market.

But those figures are radically different when it comes to which CMS museums select for their primary public-facing website. Data collected in June - July 2019 using What CMS, Built With, and Netcraft reveals some surprising trends.

Popular Content Management Systems Used by the Largest U.S. Museums

Urban Insight identified the largest 48 U.S. museums based on the number of annual visitors, determined the CMS use of each for their primary website, as well as the mobile and desktop Google Page Speed Insight Score of the websites. Here are some of the key findings of that research:

  • Of the top 48 largest U.S. museums, 22 (46%) use Drupal as the museum's content management platform.
  • Of the 22 museums that choose Drupal, 19 (86%) use Drupal 7, and 3 (14%) use Drupal 8.
  • 8 (16%) of the top 48 largest U.S. museums use WordPress as a CMS.
  • 17 (51%) of the museums with over 1 million annual visitors use Drupal as a CMS, and 4 (12%) use WordPress.
  • 5 (33%) of the museums with less than 1 million annual visitors use Drupal while (27%) use WordPress.
  • Of the 10 museums located in Washington, D.C., 8 (80%) are using Drupal.
  • Of the 8 museum websites with both mobile and desktop Google Page Speed Insight Scores > 80, 5 (62.5%) were built with Drupal.

Some examples of the largest U.S. museums using Drupal as a CMS include the National Air and Space Museum (Drupal 7) and the National Museum of Natural History (Drupal 8). Examples of large U.S. museums using WordPress include the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. See the detailed table below for more examples.

Note: Many museums on our list use multiple CMSes for different subsites, microsites, or specific projects. For simplicity in our analysis, we looked only at the primary public-facing website at the museum's primary domain name.

Drupal vs. WordPress for Your Museum Website

Your museum's choice of content management system could have a significant impact on the ultimate success of its content and digital marketing program, but this isn't the only decision that matters. Whether you choose Drupal or WordPress, having a clear design and content strategy can help your organization achieve its goals.

Drupal and WordPress are both excellent content management systems that can handle high-volume and complex processes. Each CMS is customizable, secure and able to scale and integrate with other systems. In short, either content management system has the ability to help a museum maximize the impact of its collection by presenting innovative content and themes that engage visitors.

However, it’s insightful that such a dominant share — 46% — of the nation’s largest cultural arts organizations have adopted Drupal as their content management system.

Table 1: Largest Museums, Location, Visitors, Websites and CMS Used


Appendix: Sources

The following sources were used to identify the largest museums based on the number of visitors.

The following web-based tools were used to identify or triangulate the most likely content management system used by these museums, based on the museum’s primary domain name (only).

Special thanks to Jimmy Fikes for collecting the data required for this article, and Lee Flannery for editing this article.