The pace of change of information technology is not in dispute. We are all familiar with the way electronic storage media become obsolete. The hardware and software combinations that use these storage devices mutate even faster and, of course, one is of no use without the other.
While we may normally view this ferment of invention in a positive light and willingly accept an ongoing development burden for the sake of additional speed and processing features, the disparity between the rate at which information technology changes and the time scale of a permanent national collection gives cause for alarm.
This paper examines the features of collections management systems, as illustrated by Te Kahui, the Collections Management System of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, and shows why migration of such a system to a new platform will be more difficult than for typical commercial systems. It also argues that, when the collection includes digital items, such systems may need to call on the services of a new discipline of historical computing.