The Master Data Museum


“You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse,” explained Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in their bestselling book Rework. “What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities.”

One of the many things that differentiate master data management (MDM) from a data warehouse is MDM has less stuff on its walls, so to speak. MDM provides a single view of master data entities by creating golden copies that are a sub-sub-subset of all the possible representations of those entities from all across the organization. Many, if not all, of which are stored in the data warehouse.

Fried and Hansson discussed the need for curators to decide what is included in a museum. MDM needs curators as well. MDM’s curators decide what is included in the Master Data Museum, which is where your organization will display its master-data-pieces — the best master data representations — of your products, locations, assets, and parties (e.g., customers, supplier, employees).


About Author

Jim Harris

Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

Jim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with 25 years of enterprise data management industry experience. Jim is an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer. Jim is the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, an independent blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and its related disciplines, including data governance, master data management, and business intelligence.


  1. Thanks for another expansion for MDM Jim - Master Data Museum :).

    Although we want to have a curator deciding what resides in MDM vs what does not, often time this is not seen in practice. Organizations look at MDM as a data integration project and try to map every attribute in the source to MDM causing a lot of chaos.

    What is required though is to look at each master data entity and ask the question – How do I build this entity which is complete and accurate? And to create this accurate view of the entity, what attributes (metadata) I need? And where do I get the correct data from?

    In reality these attributes may be coming from different sources internal/external to the organization. Creating a single view of customer just from one source, in the absence of curator deciding what is required and what is not is a flawed approach.

    • Jim Harris

      Thanks for your comment, Prashanta (aka the MDM Geek).

      As always, you make an excellent point. Creating a single view of customer just from one source, which arguably would truly be a single view, is a flawed approach.

      The Master Data Museum is often beset with either too few curators or too many art critics. The former leads to the chaos you mentioned, making the museum’s grand opening a flop (except perhaps with fans of Jackson Pollock paintings). The latter leads to the museum never opening because of a lack of consensus on what constitutes a master-data-piece.

      Artistically Geeky Regards,


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