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Why Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Archives Need Robust Digital Management

March 11, 2020
  1. Heritage and Culture Challenges 
  2. Functionality to Support Organizations
    a. Metadata enrichment
    b. Asset search
    c. Asset deployment
  3. How to Choose and Implement a DAM Solution
    a. Redefine workflows
    b. Monitor workflows
    c. Create a requirements profile and search for suitable providers
    d. Next steps

1. Heritage and Culture Challenges

If you work in heritage and culture, you probably love what you do. Interacting with beautiful and historic objects, sharing knowledge with the public, and preserving the past can make for a very rewarding day at the office. However, the flip side of this is the serious responsibility of your role and organization.

Some people’s work nightmares involve uncooperative copy machines, but yours is more likely to focus on a burglary or accident that would cause your objects to be stolen or damaged. If you followed the news of the Dresden Green Vault robbery or the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, you know that the results can be devastating. How can you rebuild, how can you possibly get insurance to cover the loss of something priceless, and how can you preserve history when catastrophe strikes?

If the organizations responsible for these priceless collections and landmarks have a digital asset management (DAM) system in place, they will still have with immediate access to all photos, documentation, and information. They can actively support authorities with essential details for their investigations.

All cultural institutions have a similar problem: huge amounts of files are accumulated, such as photos of exhibits, documentation, information, videos, podcasts, and much more. It's important to organize and store all this digital data as efficiently as possible. Without an effective DAM solution, this is almost impossible. In this article, you will learn about the advantages of a DAM, how to choose the right solution, and how to develop a process for managing your digital media.

2. Functionality to Support Organizations

Metadata enrichment

Once you've imported the assets into the DAM software — ideally via drag and drop — you need to add keywords and additional information. Most DAM systems have a predefined set of data fields for the most commonly used standard metadata for the various media types. In most cases, they can also define user-defined data fields and store freely defined terms themselves. Modern DAM solutions such as Extensis' Portfolio solution go one step further and analyze photos using AI-enabled image recognition. This saves time and money.

Asset search

So when you need to find assets, you can use simple keyword searches or powerful Boolean logic. Thanks to thumbnails or video previews, you'll find the items you're looking for very quickly, so they're always at your fingertips. You can also collect search results in catalogs and galleries for later use. With granular rights assignment, you can control who can use which asset and how. This also guarantees better compliance with the GDPR — so you're on the safe side.


Asset deployment

Digital asset management systems allow assets to be stored media-neutral, and output in many different formats. The data is stored as a source file and can be used as required. This also saves time and costs, as the creative team can convert and download the required assets into the appropriate format themselves.
Version control is also essential. Control how long files are current and available for viewing or downloading, so your staff can avoid inadvertently using obsolete assets.

Even if you want to include external parties in a project, you'll benefit from clear access rights and maintain full control. The result: higher productivity and better return on your digital asset investment, saving your team time and energy.

3. How to Choose and Implement a DAM Solution

Automating workflows helps cultural institutions efficiently manage the ever-growing volume of digital assets. Let's assume that there are already processes in place to store, categorize and use the assets. Question these processes and decide whether they are too time-consuming or costly.

Step 1: Redefine workflows if necessary

Define your workflows and specify a requirements profile: Where do your assets come from? In what form should they ideally be archived, categorized and published? Who should be allowed to edit them and with what rights?

With Extensis' DAM solution Portfolio you can define and automate any workflows that are useful for your institution. You can also link work processes to each other. The Portfolio Application Programming Interface (API) allows for advanced integration with third-party applications, such as content management systems. Once you have defined workflows, simply save them. If the processes change, you can later modify them as required or optimize them if necessary.

Step 2: Monitor workflows

Trust is good, but control is better. With a DAM such as Portfolio, every single step of the process can be controlled, regardless of the source of the assets. The source could be an exchange folder on the corporate network, an FTP server, or a folder from Portfolio.

Don’t forget about compliance. In terms of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), careful handling of sensitive data is more important than ever. With Portfolio, important files can be used within compliance if you store them in specially secured folders with restricted access rights.

Step 3: Create a requirements profile and search for suitable providers

  • Answer the following questions so that you can decide what DAM would need to do in your organization:
  • How big is your team?
  • Which departments, processes and systems should be integrated?
  • In which existing business systems and workflows should the solution be integrated?
  • Do you also want to integrate external service providers into the workflow?
  • Should the integration with other systems/third-party providers be guaranteed?
  • How rapidly will the number of assets in your organization grow?
  • Do you want to benefit from regular software updates?
  • What about a backup and restore process in case of problems?
  • What is your budget?
  • Should it be a cloud-based or server-based?
  • Do you need training for your administrators and users?
  • What is your ideal timeline for completion?


Next steps

Estimate how the growth of digital assets in your organization will evolve over time, assuming that you'll need to deliver assets to new and different channels. Know that roles, teams, and departments within your institution are always subject to change. Gauge how much flexibility and scalability you need in your work processes, and how much internal and external access would be required. Understanding what you need and want is your starting point for implementing a DAM system.

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