background image
mously because it would be accessible
worldwide.When I was in China last year, I
noticed there was an enormous hunger
for information on art and
design. At the moment
we have 2,000 pictures
on our Website.With
a DAMS we could
easily publish 20,000
or 50,000 or eventu-
ally one and a half
million pictures on
the site.'
Some people con-
sider a DAMS to be a type of collection manage-
ment system.These were introduced in the early
nineties and lots of museums now have one, inclu-
ding the V&A. Stevenson: `There is a fundamental
difference in the sense that a collection management
system is purely focussed on the collection itself, the
objects in the Museum. None of our pictures, from
books in the National Art Library in the museum, or
those pictures of the buildings and its activities, is
included in our collection management system. But
that is thirty per cent of our assets. Not only that, it
is also the thirty per cent that is very important in
shaping the image of the museum.'
The advantages of digital asset management are
not only measured by numbers, be it visitors or pic-
tures. Stevenson: `It is also important that our custo-
mers get the pictures in the format they want.They
are used internally for promotion of exhibitions and
for accompanying catalogues. But also for presenta-
tions and for our educational worksheets.These
worksheets are developed for use in schools, and also
for adult education.Then, we sell pictures both to
the general public and to companies, who use it for
promotion, but also as a source of inspiration for
product development and design.We have about a
hundred licensees who actually make use of designs
14
DigiCULT
`I
f we don't jump on the bandwagon as
museums, we are going to miss a great oppor-
tunity to increase the visibility of our collec-
tions and ourselves as organisations. And that is going
to cost us, both in terms of audience and, in the long
run, in terms of money.'There is no need to convince
James Stevenson, photographic manager of the
Victoria and Albert Museum, of the benefits of a
digital asset management system.With a small staff,
he is responsible for expanding and maintaining the
impressive image collection of the Victoria and
Albert Museum for applied and decorative arts.The
museum holds 4 million objects ranging from house-
hold objects like vacuum cleaners to a very fine
collection of European, Asian and Islamic art. It even
has a collection of comic book covers.
The V&A's picture collection started in 1856, the
year the Museum was established, and now contains
1.5 million analogue and 50,000 digital pictures,
made since 1995.The digital pictures are stored on
800 CDs in Stevenson's office.The analogue pictures
are, according to Stevenson, `slowly digitised' on a
needs basis.When people need a picture digitised for
a catalogue or for the Website, the digital picture is
stored on CD.
A DAMS would be very helpful, if only from an
administrative point of view. Stevenson: `At the mo-
ment all requests for digital pictures go by way of
my desk. I will praise the day when people themsel-
ves can get access to a repository that contains our
digital images and digitised photographs. Reduction
of workload and an increase in efficiency would in
itself justify implementing a DAMS.'
But that is only part of the story he has to tell.
Stevenson: `More importantly, especially in the light
of our public task, a DAMS would be instrumental
in increasing our audience. At the moment we attract
about two million visitors per year and the numbers
are growing. By making our collection available on
the Internet we could increase that number enor-
G
R A B T H E
O
P P O RT U N I T Y
TO
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N C R E A S E T H E
V
I S I B I L I T Y
O F T H E
C
O L L E C T I O N
An Interview with James Stevenson, Victoria and Albert Museum
London, United Kingdom
by
Joost van Kasteren