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DAM Summit Cultural Heritage Panel – Wrap

DAM Summit Cultural Heritage Panel – Wrap

DAM Summit Cultural Heritage Panel – Wrap

Day 2: The Cultural Heritage Panel

The recent DAM Summit EU held in Berlin was a chance for Canto staff, their partners and customers to share information on all aspects of digital asset management – technical know-how, case studies, value-add plugins, and the Cumulus road map.

Part of this ‘show and tell‘ included a panel session on Day 2 on DAM for Cultural Heritage which postulated a number of questions pertinent to cultural heritage.

The panel was a mix of Cultural Heritage DAM users and Canto partners involved with the implementation of DAM systems. The questions were drawn from public responses to an online survey conducted in the lead-up to the Summit.



  • Marianne Peereboom, Van Gogh Museum
  • Michael Fink, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
  • Birgit Scheps-Bretschneider, Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
  • Jesper Arentoft, Attention Solutions
  • Alexander Graeber, CDS Gromke e.K.
  • Chaired by Ricky Patten, databasics


The Questions

These were the questions that were put to the panel:

  1. What should the make up of the team involved be to ensure success of the DAMS project.
  2. Analysing usage and user behaviour of your DAMS.
  3. Importance of integrating DAMS and CMS (Collection Management System).
  4. The main reason for introducing DAMS in a cultural heritage organisation.
  5. Importance of contributors in your organisation and their impacts on the DAMS.
  6. Importance of delivering content to external portals, such as Trove, Europeana, Getty or social media channels.
  7. Should the DAMS be created for the institution to use or for an external audience.
  8. How can crowd-sourcing metadata be effective.


1.  What should the make up of the team involved be to ensure the success of the DAMS project?

Alex responded: IT will not be the main part of the team but is often a stakeholder. As the DAM is an extension of collection management, this is the most important user group.

Next comes the marketing group who may have usage of DAM associated with general communications and retail operations.

Jesper commented that the project management team need to be empowered and have the correct level of executive sponsorship.



2. Analysing usage and user behaviour of your DAMS.


Ricky suggested the following in response: Although the standard reporting tools of a DAM might be quite configurable they usually do not meet the need of a cultural heritage organisation, particularly due to the range of custom fields that such an organisation has, and the specific needs of the report.

The suggestion is to have custom reports built to match the data that will be stored according to the needs of the organisation.



3. Importance of integrating DAMS and CMS (Collection Management System).

Jesper commented that DAM is purpose built for media and one of the additional benefits for DAM solutions is when you reuse content to other systems such as CMS. So DAMS and CMS integration is a high value proposition.

At same time the DAMS must have suitable metadata for retrieval. Jesper cited cases where content could be found in Google but not in their DAM!

Birgit commented that CMS is limited in it’s capability to manage media and it is good to keep a clear distinction between the two solutions, although integration maybe included, they perform quite different tasks in a cultural heritage organisation.


4. The main reason for introducing DAMS in a cultural heritage organisation.

Marianne responded that the need for DAM is a no brainer. Cultural heritage organisations have huge collections of content that people want to be able to visualize – may be scans of collection items through to photography of exhibitions.

It’s all about Can’t find it Can’t use it!


5. Importance of contributors in your organisation and their impacts on the DAMS.

Marianne responded: contributors and their roles have to be associated with correct governance. You have to have the contributors correctly skilled to be able to assign meaningful metadata to content correctly.



6. Importance of delivering content to external portals, such as Trove, Europeana, Getty or social media channels.

Michael responded: Is that a question? It is an absolute minimum to have such content available externally to aggregation services so that people can find what they are looking for and the overall cultural heritage is preserved. In the past, users would have to physically travel – now research can be performed remotely.

Michael commented that he is working with Google to provide some level of support for them. The museum has rights to what gets made accessible – although it is not generally a question of who has rights to access content … the main question is how are you going to accomplish this.



7. Should the DAMS be created for the institution to use or for and external audience?

Both Jesper and Birgit commented: The DAM must be simple to use if the content is going to be made externally.

Jesper cited an example of a site who transformed the ownership to public, thus was entirely focused on an external audience.

Ricky recounted experiences with MA16 ( Museums Australia Conference) where the question of ownership of cultural heritage was a key topic. The institutions are the trusted holders of heritage whereas the public are the rightful owners and should be given complete access.



8. How can crowd-sourcing metadata be effective.

Birgit responded and gave an example of a collection of historical photos from the Pacific Islands. They put this up as a crowd sourcing activity and found that they had contributors from around the world helping with correct management the content. Everybody has some knowledge.

The benefits of offering and sharing collections online for comments was very evident. From a small island in Pacific during the 1970s to a museum in Dresden Germany!

Jesper commented that they also engaged in such a project and first asked -can you trust the metadata. They expected noise when going public but that was not the case. They received a lot of very useful metadata added to the collection and never had any deleterious noise!



Audience Question

Audience question:  Are there any standards used for metadata in cultural heritage?

Most replied that the use of Dublin Core or whatever your regional area uses as a local implementation of DC was generally accepted.



Ricky: I found the panel an interesting opportunity to catch up with many European approaches to digital asset management within a cultural heritage context. Interestingly I found the key issues that were discussed and approaches of the panelists to making DAM successful were very similar to those that we are currently engaged with in our region.

As a supplier of digital asset management solutions I see many similarities between different market segments. However the cultural heritage usage of DAM is different and this needs to be recognised by vendors. Many of the objectives of a cultural heritage organisation and how that then reflects in their usage of DAM has a very specific background. Balancing the role of the institution to be custodian of heritage items and also making general access available is a key strategy for success. A well implemented DAM solution provides the opportunity to achieve a well structured extension of collection management to include digital assets and at the same time enables access in a well controlled environment for digital surrogates.

I’d like to thank the panelist for their involvement in this discussion, for our faithful followers who engaged with the initial survey to provide input into the favoured topics, for our existing customers especially from cultural heritage institutions and of course Canto for organising the DAM Summit.


Written by Ricky Patten from notes taken during the session.

All photos copyright Paul Dionne.



MA16 | Museums Australasia 2016 Recap

MA16 | Museums Australasia 2016 Recap

MA16 | Museums Australasia 2016 Recap

Museums Australasia 2016 Conference or MA16: Facing the Future: Local, Global and Pacific Possibilities – was the first joint conference between Museums Australia and Museums Aotearoa. Crossing cultures and disciplines, the conference program covered events, tours and activities with a strong emphasis on the cultures of the Asia-Pacific region. Ricky Patten was there and his recap looks at the overriding theme of the conference: museums and galleries fulfilling two roles in society – history and storytelling, storage and preservation.

Museums: storage place of history/culture versus instigator/place for creating future cultures

These two roles do not necessarily resonate with people whose culture provides the collection material. Sometimes the role of museums and even the very establishment of museums is seen to suppress indigenous cultures and to be a colonial process to enforce the conversion of First Peoples to the colonial culture.

The result is a tension between museums as the storage place of history and culture versus their role as instigators and a place for creating future cultures as explored in the two keynote speakers on Day 1.

Keynote: Moana Jackson: Context – the evolving story of Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Keynote: David Garneau: From Colonial trophy case to non-Colonial keeping-house

Part of this is the belief that museums themselves are the knowledgeable authority as opposed to the elders of the indigenous community having a wealth of knowledge that surpasses that of the museum. This is often characterised by the authorities on indigenous culture consulting with the elders of the indigenous community, as opposed to going directly to that community and having the elders provide their own knowledge.

It is therefore of great significance that museums take careful consideration of the collection objects/treasured objects/mana taonga held within the museum/house of treasures/whare taonga and how connections are made to the broader community. For many there is an outstanding issue of returning taonga to the community/wharenui, as within the museum/whare taonga, the mana taonga are sterile.

Digital future

The plenary sessions discussed the future focus and sustainability for museums. Digital transformation versus archival repository – to better place themselves within the community many museums have taken up an open policy of making their collections widely available.  Digitisation assists with this policy and complements direct access to the objects for purposes of research and community interaction.

Digitisation and providing open access needs to be considered in the light of the cost of provisioning such a resource. If this activity can be done at a low cost it is likely to be sustainable, as unfortunately there is little sponsorship available from governments.

In the Day 2 Keynote The Ten Thousand Year Museum, Elizabeth Merritt considered what preservation and interpretation could mean across millennia and within the context of shifting institutional culture.


Community within the museum

There needs to be a more diverse workforce within museums and galleries to reflect the spectrum of the community.

Leadership needs to be collaborative, with fair representation from the community to determine the role of the organisation within the community, and how the collection can best be leveraged for the purposes of the community. The attitudes and processes plus associated skills of museum staff in light of their roles in the interactions with the community needs to be examined.

What needs to be accomplished by the museum to make their collection accessible and what skill sets do they require to achieve this goal? What is the role of cultural heritage organisations and research?

In light of the source of knowledge coming from the community rather than museum based authorities, should research be the domain of the community and facilitated by the infrastructure provided by the museum? Indigenous knowledge of the collection items is often persistent whereas institutionalised research is generally the reclamation of old knowledge.


Funding cuts

Cuts of government funding will be a major challenge for Australian institutions as they will still have expectations placed upon them and limited funds to respond. Survival will be based upon the ability to work with what’s available. In these times of great challenge, it is important to pay more rigorous attention to generosity. The collection must survive as a resource for the community.

Place of the indigenous community

Interpretation is a defining quality of an indigenous culture. It needs to be carefully understood in the cultural context of the community and yet allow the culture to retain a modern context, within an environment affected by many strong influences.

Education will inevitably be the key – interpretation is a communication process and if interpretation is effective, then education can occur about the subject. Formal education will allow the indigenous person to gain power and influence. However, to retain content of the indigenous culture as the secret language of white privilege implicitly denies the heritage of the indigenous people.

Indigenous culture and heritage is what separates yet identifies many of the participants of the conference. Specifically ex-British colonial countries need to hold true to their indigenous culture to retain a unique identity.

Central theme of relevance

With the continued pressure for financial support, new models of planning of events needs to be considered. A focus on the collection and the local knowledge that is embodied in the collection needs to be retained, rather than taking on large spectacles that have little meaning to the organisation itself and will not bring people back after the event is completed.

Museums and galleries need to see the opportunity in collection exchanges rather than hoarding the collection. Curators need to have broad knowledge of their community as a source of collection items and to be researchers of local knowledge from the field. A balance between the collection activities of an organisation and front of house activities needs to be achieved.

What can a museum or gallery achieve that others cannot do?
• Build collections and making them accessible.
• Build on the uniqueness of the collection.

The final Plenary on Future possibilities and leading the journey, asked the audience to consider What’s your prediction for the future of our sector ? and What do we need to equip ourselves for the journey.


The conference was a great experience and I learnt much from the many speakers and colleagues alike. Overall there was a great feeling of optimism and vitality.

Many of the challenges facing cultural heritage organisations were already understood and the conference allowed for them to be voiced in a communal discussion and thus be recognised. From this process I believe that many solutions to the challenges museums face have their genesis at this conference and will stand them in good stead for future growth in the broader public community.

Thanks to the conference organisers who have worked hard to make the whole event come together.


Images courtesy of Pixabay and Adobe Stock.

See also:

Museums & Galleries of NSW – Michael Rolfe‘s wrap-up.

Vernon Systems  Paul Rowe‘s post-conference notes.


Cultural Heritage and DAMS

Cultural Heritage and DAMS

Cultural Heritage and DAMS

Essay on SPECTRUM Digital Asset Management

WebinarUpon reading Collections Trust SPECTRUM DAM [1] guide, I was impressed to discover such an extensive and well written specification for the deployment of a digital asset management system (DAMS) in a collection management organisation. In our own DAMS practise we have many cultural heritage customers as well as a broad community of local government and university customers who are engaged in collection management as some part of their activities.

In line with Collections Trust intent to provide informative information in an open access environment, I have created this essay to add to the wealth of knowledge already found in SPECTRUM DAM. I hope to engage in a productive dialogue with Collections Trust and other members of the cultural heritage community by making this content freely available on various social media channels such as our blog.

To start at the beginning – the definition of a digital asset. In itself this seems to be quite a simplistic task but on closer inspection we find that an organisation’s first challenge is defining what is a digital asset, (and thus is suitable for a digital asset management regime), and what is not. Most commonly this is in reference to what can be considered primarily as a document and better managed within a document centric solution. Within the context of collection management there is also a consideration of what are primarily collection objects requiring management within a collections management system (CMS), such as born-digital assets and derivative media that encompass one or more physical collection objects.

From a purist DAM perspective, any computer file that includes content in a broad definition can be considered a digital asset and can be managed within a DAMS. In the simplest of descriptions, a DAMS is a database that has as a file reference (e.g. a UNC path) as a primary database field. This differentiates DAMS from document management as often the latter contains the document within the database. However, this is rather an academic point as some DAMS contain assets and not references and some document management solution refer to digital files. The differentiation to collection management solutions is clearer, as although some CMS may have images or media embedded or referenced, almost all CMS users would agree that the primary reference is an acquisition or collection reference, typically as an alphanumeric used to identify the collection object in question.

In my experience, the reasoning behind an organisation implementing a DAMS is all about the very nature of the digital assets / content / media that is being managed and what that organisation is intending to achieve by managing these assets. In light of this, the nature of digital asset management and digital assets becomes much clearer as the media provides opportunities for the organisation to leverage the content embedded within the media and the DAMS must support this process. For most organisations, if there is a clear intent to provide public access to digital surrogates of their collection items, then the DAMS must have an active role in achieving this. In many cases the DAMS is not the solution but rather the supporting infrastructure that facilitates the solution. For example, public access is achieved by making content available via web, social media and a range of other digital delivery processes. Thus the DAMS must be able to supply suitable content rendered to a preferred size/format to support the consumer’s device of choice in response to whatever discovery process is deemed most suited and with sufficient throughput/speed for the target community.


Factors in the Management of Digital Assets

With a more robust characterisation of a DAMS such as above, we can then work back to the media itself and engage more objectively with the definition of what digital assets are and what a DAMS must be able to do with them.

  1. Suitable content – the DAMS must support the discovery process within a framework that respects cultural sensitivities, copyright/ licensing, content censorship, access permissions and security. To achieve this the DAMS must be a sophisticated database that can integrate within an organisation’s technology landscape and offer suitable control over what content will be available to a user of the solution.
  1. Rendering – digital assets will be in a wide range of formats and often in historical formats that are no longer supported. The format to store digital surrogates will also be dictated by the process of content creation and should support long term storage of suitable quality or better for longevity. Preferred formats and sizes for delivery of content are quickly changing and can be expected to continue to change as the technological landscape of our society evolves. A successful DAMS must stand in between the output from an organisation’s preferred choice of digital capture and the current standards for effective delivery of content. In simple terms a DAMS must include the capability to transform media from one format and size to another for all the asset types an organisation may want to manage. This characteristic alone is perhaps one of the most obvious points of difference between a DAMS and any other collections solution.
  1. Consumers – other than for the purposes of storage and preservation of digital surrogates a DAMS is all about delivering content to consumers. There is little to no value in a DAMS by itself if content delivery is not considered as a prime requirement. There are some exceptions to this, such as born-digital assets may be managed by a DAMS purely as an archival process or the photographic record of the preservation process is required to be stored for later retrieval. To the most part a successful DAMS must be designed from the consumer back to the source of the content. This places the consumer correctly as the primary driver of a DAMS.
  2. Throughput – for many organisations that place the consumer first the next important topic is to determine the intended audience. In light of recent findings such as those outlined in Striking the Balance from Collections Trust, the target audience will be the public in the widest meaning of the term. To support successful delivery of media to such a large audience that has such widely varying patterns of consumption , the DAMS must be scalable to support extremes of throughput. It is perhaps a key strategic directive of any cultural heritage organisation to be able to support viral consumption of digital surrogates of collection objects in response to trends within society most typified by short term raised public awareness  triggered by commercial media organisations.


With these factors in mind and a more sophisticated understanding of what are digital assets and why an organisation might have a DAMS the approach to digital asset management may be extended.

The Value of Digital Assets

But to return to my definition of a digital asset, and taking into consideration one of the primary factors driving an organisation to create, store and collate large numbers of media files. In our practice of digital asset management, one of the key questions to ask any organisation is what is their understanding of the value of their digital assets? Seemingly a simple question but the inherent significance of this question becomes more apparent when it is pointed out that the key word in this phrase is understanding. For a collections organisation that is following an open access policy, the value is not necessarily just in the asset itself, but also in the added benefit of having the digital assets in common circulation, freely available for access. Whereas another collections organisation following a commercial re-use strategy with regards to digital collections may establish a value rating based upon the licensing for commercial re-use of the content, to enable its reproduction onto objects such as cups, T-shirts, and prints for sale.

In either case the organisation needs a well developed understanding of the value of their digital assets and must embed this understanding into both the business case for a DAMS as well as the solution design that dictates the final deployment. Once this has been done, specific business outcomes can be achieved objectively such as:

  • Prioritisation of content allowing for a phased approach to be taken with well defined (value understood) range of digital assets targeted for delivery at each stage
  • Well understood approach to archiving of digital assets
  • Selection of content to be suitable for open access
  • Primary storage of content in high definition formats as opposed to lower cost medium or storage of low resolution renditions
  • Research and negotiation of suitable licensing of digital surrogates
  • Ongoing digitisation strategy

and more.

One facet in understanding the value of digital assets is determining a suitable metric and whether this should be relative or absolute. Again the understanding of value is the best guide to determining the metric: an open access model may be best served by establishing a relative value whilst a commercial model should establish an absolute value of their digital assets.

Once a metric is established, suitable reporting strategies can be implemented based upon the ranking of digital assets by their chosen value.

A relative valuation might focus on determining digital assets that are of higher value rather than lesser. Priorities may then be established to pay more attention to higher value assets and push them into earlier phases of deployment and to keep the digital originals in hot storage to support frequent/wider delivery of the content. With such a relative value approach it might be mentioned that it is implicit that some assets will never rise high enough in their relative value and thus might never enter into the DAMS solution.

Alternatively, an absolute valuation will set a financial value on any/all assets based upon well understood commercial viability. In such an environment a business driver will be to have all digital assets within the DAMS to support a greater total value of digital assets owned by an organisation.

Cost of Ownership

Further to the positive value of a digital asset is also the negative value in so much as there can be a cost of ownership associated with any asset or collection of assets. The cost of ownership must also be well understood and will contribute to the overall evaluation of an asset.

The various contributors to the overall cost of ownership may include the initial digitisation, storage, ingestion to the DAMS, preservation and on-going digitisation. By nature, cost of ownership is typically stated in an absolute framework i.e. in dollars and cents, pounds and pence, and not be in relation to the positive value of the asset. In an environment where an absolute value is attributed to digital assets, this quickly leads to a calculation of the overall worth of an asset, i.e. total positive or negative worth. The cost of ownership in a relative value environment is difficult to compare due to the inherent incompatibility between a relative valuation to an absolute cost. It is perhaps better for an organisation to recognise the overall cost of ownership and weigh this against the overall secondary benefits that are being sought. If discrimination is desired it will be better to work at a collection level as this will be more practical to derive an absolute value rather than for individual objects.

When determining the value of a digital asset whether it be relative or absolute, the quality of the asset also comes into play. One common business outcome associated with DAMS is to raise the overall value of the digital assets or an organisation. For cultural heritage organisations moving to an open access strategy, making available high quality digital surrogates may be key to the overall strategy of driving the public back to the host organisation for sourcing digital media and away from public domain low quality versions. Whereas a commercial strategy may be based upon an assumption that the digital assets are of a high enough quality to support the sales process. In either case the host organisation will at times review the quality of their digital surrogates and may embark on a new digitisation process to raise the overall quality. If the organisation supports an internal digitisation group, the digitisation process is likely to be ongoing. Having a well developed understanding of the value of the digital assets can be critical in directing the efforts of the digitisation team to raising the quality of higher value assets to achieve the most return on investment. In the case of digitisation being outsourced, the cost of this process can be accurately weighed against the increased benefits/profits of having higher quality digital assets. This can be of particular importance when communicating to an external digitisation partner, so that a suitable commercial agreement can be reached that provides benefits to both organisations.



This brings into play entirely new opportunities for an organisation, as with a well defined understanding of the value of the digital assets of the collection, new commercial opportunities are available. For example, if a joint venture with an external organisation or other investment channel is being considered, the host organisation can enter into negotiations from a position of strength, knowing both the plausible financial opportunity for the external partner and also what benefits that are attainable from this project. Typically, such joint ventures will deliver benefits to the host organisation in raising the extent to which the collection is digitised, the quality of the digitisation and possible the exposure of the collection to the public. With an underlying understanding of the value of the digital assets, such a partnership can be planned and documented in a much more precise financial manner and compared with any other activity and weighed accurately on its merits.

Scope of DAMS

From an informed basis of both the nature of DAMS for a cultural heritage organisation and a good understanding of the value of the digital assets to be managed, the scope within the organisation to which the DAMS will be involved can then be addressed. For most collections-based organisations there will already be in place a well developed collections management solution with associated processes and procedures. When a DAMS is introduced into this environment, attention needs to be paid to the extent to which digital assets will be be targeted for ingestion into the DAMS.

Some simple cases exist to the scope of DAMS within cultural heritage organisations; obvious contenders here are those business areas/groups of users within the organisation that operate outside of the collections management solution. For example, marketing, communications, photography, preservation, retail and digital are all commonly found within a cultural heritage organisation and all have a need to manage their digital assets. In my experience these are often the early adopters of a DAMS responding to the prevalence of media being used at a generic level in almost all walks of life. For these business segments there are few complications in the adoption of DAMS – it is a simple requirement and a DAM solution addresses this need.

For other areas of operation involved in the collection management process, the question of the position of the DAMS versus the collection management solution is often profound.

  • Should digital assets be primarily the domain of the CMS or the DAMS?
  • Should a collection object first be recorded in the CMS or the DAMS?
  • Will there be an equal number of records in the CMS and in the DAMS?
  • What to do with born-digital collection objects?

First and foremost is the need to determine who is going to be the primary business owner of the DAMS. Should DAMS be seen as a specialised case of collections management or should DAMS be owned by the creators or the consumers of the content?

In the case of a commercial model for digital assets, the business unit involved in the commercialisation process, e.g. retail, may be the main business owner, engaging the collections management team and content creators as their supply chain. In an open access model, the collection management team may be the business owners as their usage of the DAMS may be centred on the delivery of content. In our experience it is best not to have the DAMS owned by content creators unless the purpose of the DAMS is limited to storage, retrieval and preservation of the digital content being created. In most cases content creators are not consumers and not exposed to the greater needs of the DAMS during delivery of content or have the business drivers involved in either the primary or secondary benefits of a DAMS.

Next, guidelines need to be established as to the extent to which a cultural heritage organisation’s digital assets will be stored in the CMS or the DAMS. There are some simple cases such as a lack of capability or the choice to not store digital assets in the CMS that lead to the outcome that digital assets will be entirely the domain of the DAMS. Most typically the CMS used has some capacity to store digital assets and usually there is a desire to store representative media content in the CMS.

Furthermore, it needs to be understood the range of media that is created by an organisation for the collection. Is the digitisation process aimed at producing a single digital asset per collection object – indeed is this possible considering the nature of the collection? For organisations involved in document or photographic archival there can be a simple one to one relationship between collection objects and digital assets, but this is rarely the case as most collections have widely varying objects of different nature. A cultural heritage digitisation process most typically generates multiple digital assets for collections objects.

With this in mind we can then start to answer some of the questions posed above:

  1. All the working digital assets created during the digitisation process, plus preservation specific and ancillary digital assets that may describe alternate views/ aspects of the collections object are stored in the DAMS.
  1. Depending upon the extent to which integration is available between the DAMS and CMS it then needs to be determined whether a single digital surrogate of the collections objects should be stored in the CMS.
  1. If a high level of integration is available between the CMS and DAMS, then it is generally best to reference digital assets in the DAMS from the CMS. This ha the benefit of centralising all digital content in the DAMS, makes digital distribution simpler. The DAMS and its ability to deliver content becomes the single source of digital assets and removes complexity from the acquisition process as the collection management process does not need to entail sourcing of a representational digital asset.
  1. If a lesser level of integration is available, then typically a single or limited number of digital surrogates are stored in the CMS leaving the greater number of digital assets in the DAMS. Processes have to be created for supply of these digital surrogates, the possibilities of duplication of digital content needs to be addressed, as well as issues resolved concerning the means of distributing digital content not held within the DAMS.

As a consequence, the domain of digital assets can then be determined to be entirely within the DAMS in cases of complete integration with the CMS, otherwise partial ownership of digital content will need to be split between the DAMS and CMS.


Acquisitions and Integration

The acquisition process for most cultural heritage organisations is typically well established and it is best that the introduction of a DAMS augments this process or at least does not interfere with it. In cases where a high level of integration exists between CMS and DAMS a great amount of flexibility in the acquisition process exists, as essentially the work of the collections and digitisation teams are not dependent upon each other. If there is a lesser level of integration, then procedures will need to be determined as to the sequence of events suitable to the collection objects and the involvement of the collections and digitisation teams. Special examples of this are when born-digital objects are involved as these may well first need to be ingested into the DAMS before they are available in a suitable format for the collections team.

Therefore, one of the key determinates to the scope of the DAMS involvement in the day to day operations of a cultural heritage organisation is the extent to which the CMS and DAMS can be integrated. If the business case for the procurement of a DAMS dictates a broad scope of operation within an organisation, then integration with the CMS will be a primary criterion for success.

In almost all cases of cultural heritage digitisation projects, there will be a much larger domain of digital surrogates generated per collection items, as above. It is also typical that the digitisation process will never completely encompass the entire collection held by the host organisation. This introduces another complexity involved during the discovery process – assuming a federated search is possible across all sources the following outcomes are possible:

  • Collection object associated with one or more digital surrogates
  • Collection objects associated with no digital surrogates
  • Digital assets not associated with any collection objects.

The first two possibilities in themselves dictate that the discovery process be able to address primary and secondary content in the CMS and DAMS respectively. The third outcome needs to be understood at an organisational level and integrated into the overall business objective of the organisations.

Simple examples of digital assets not associated with collection objects are those sourced from any of the non collections-based business operations within a cultural heritage organisation. Media captured during the construction of exhibitions, exhibition launches, original content based upon re-use of existing collection objects, the cultural heritage building itself, the staff, sponsors, visitors, retail items, food outlets etc.

For any cultural heritage organisation whether it be following an open access or commercial policy towards digital content, it is most likely the intent that discovery should encompass all content considered above. This creates a highly complex environment for discovery to operate within as any query will need to be resolved across multiple systems (i.e. CMS and DAMS) then reconciled as to the relationship between the result sets from each of these sources. It is not practical to expect either the CMS or the DAMS to be able to perform such an extended search process as it is not within the realm of the primary purpose of either solution. Instead it is most likely that the best architecture to facilitate such a process is a dedicated discovery environment which can draw upon multiple different sources and present results to the user in a suitable format.

Digital Asset Lifecycle

Finally, we need to consider the digital asset lifecycle within a cultural heritage organisation – from genesis of the digital content, to evaluation, ingestion into DAMS, usage/tracking/auditing, replacement, archival and eventual disposal. The initial creation of digital assets will typically be already underway and in most cases have a well established process along with an associated history. In most environments, new content is being created at a fast rate due to the availability of capture devices ranging from high quality digitisation tools through to hand held digital cameras and smart devices. For the survival of a viable DAMS process, the first task is to understand the value of this content – as discussed earlier in this document. The evaluation process needs to filter out content that needs to be only available for short periods of time before archival, thus allowing the DAMS team to focus on the acquisition of high value content that serves the business objectives of the organisation.

The operation of the DAMS to allow for ingestion and day to day management and use of content is highly important. In the modern day workplace, users expect ease of use, simple and highly efficient functionality, and device independence that allows for access anywhere/anytime. The range of highly competitive DAMS available to a cultural heritage organisation provides a good selection of appropriate tools to support the different ingestion methodologies and with highly effective reporting capabilities.

During the lifecycle of a digital asset the host organisation may at times choose to raise the value of the asset by increasing the quality of the digitisation or demote the asset to an archive. These topics are intertwined with the overall value of the asset to the organisation and have been dealt with extensively previously.

At some point disposal of the digital asset needs to be taken into consideration, whether in response to a change in status of the source collection object such as de-accessioning, or a change in copyright/cultural sensitivity/associated permissions. Most DAMS will support the continuation of the record metadata after the removal of the digital asset, allowing the cultural heritage organisation to retain the history of the digital asset after its disposal. The record may also be used to record the disposal of the digital asset for purposes of governance.


In conclusion, now that a more complete understanding of a digital asset including knowledge of its value to the organisation, intended usage, business ownership, context within the discovery process and overall lifecycle has been established, the requirement to manage these valuable assets can be assessed. The future for cultural heritage is to disseminate more content digitally, whether that be in an open access or commercial framework, as more people demand access to content than is practical to provide access to the primary collection object.

The scale of opportunity that digital distribution offers a host organisation varies depending upon the nature of the collection and the overall business objectives, but in all cases is an opportunity that must be addressed to fulfil core objectives into the future. Essential to delivering an effective digital program is a suitable digital asset management solution that matches the scope of the program and purposes of the host organisation. It is hoped that this essay adds to the body of knowledge available for cultural heritage organisations to respond more effectively to content consumption demands of the future.

Author: Ricky Patten, Director DataBasics Pty Ltd

 Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

[1] Collections Trust SPECTRUM Digital Asset Management v2.0 March 2013

This essay also available for download.


Collections Trust SPECTRUM Digital Asset Management

National Museum Directors’ Council / Collections Trust  Striking the Balance – slideshare 2014 and Report 2015  on ‘Striking the balance’ between public access and commercial reuse of digital content.

DataBasics blog posts:
• Digital Asset Management: What is it and why is it important for GLAMs
• Digital Asset and Collection Management – Integrating the Systems.

Other refs:
DAM Guru webinar: Essential DAM Planning for Museums by Susan Barrett, Instructional Technologist, Arizona State University