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20
DigiCULT
F
ranca Garzotto hit the Forum with another
`provocative' question, this time to vendors:Why
should a cultural institution switch from its
familiar, general purpose system such as Oracle in
favour of a system that may not survive? What would
happen to the content?
Artesia's Guy Hellier reassured the experts that most
products were based on commonly available database
systems and should store metadata and related infor-
mation in an open way.
Ms Garzotto pressed further: `You are saying that
there is no risk of portability problems in the case
of evolution of technology - that these systems are
open enough to be integrated and to be replaced by
other software.'
Yes, said Mr Hellier. DAMS represented no more
risk than basic level components.The risk equation
had to be calculated against the cost of building and
maintaining DAMS functions into basic components.
G
erman vendor Stefan Schneider, from the
research department of information system
makers Tecmath AG, agreed: `An ordinary
database has no workflow support, such as browsing
or a Web interface.You have to program all this
yourself.' But he had a bigger problem. Did muse
ums really know how to use workflow processes?
His company's preliminary analyses often revealed
weaknesses in museums' existing workflow practices.
`You cannot replace a bad analogue workflow with
a digital one', he said. `A DAMS could create more
chaos than before.'
Mr Moon thought the problem existed across
industry but DAMS technology offered much sup-
port.The problem unique to the cultural heritage
sector was, perhaps, what he called the `super users',
the curators who required very specific retrieval
PORTABILITY RISKS
WORKFLOW FAILINGS
COST OF DAM SYSTEMS
A
ll of which raised the question of why, if they
did not already have it, did museums need all
that workflow functionality. Norbert Kanter,
who works for the German branch of the Swiss system
makers zetcom AG, wondered why existing collec-
tion management systems could not continue doing
the job they had done for the past ten or 12 years.
Natural History Museum manager Graham Higley
was `struggling' with the same thought.Why not just
strap a digitising `carbuncle' on the side of an existing
collection management system? It could be enough
to tide a system over until DAMS technology had
proved itself and become cheaper.
Franca Garzotto cut to the core again and asked
bluntly: `What does a DAMS cost?'
Michael Moon had the figures in his head:
$100 to $5,000: Canto Cumulus
1
, Extensis
Portfolio
2
2
and Filemaker Pro
3
all did excellent jobs
for small projects.
$25,000 to $50,000: `A class of DAMS, which are
basically internal systems.They are not really
Webified.'
$100,000 to $250,000: Artesia
4
and Tecmath
5
but
`two to three million dollars to get it fully distri-
buted and replicated throughout the enterprise'.
Lower-cost systems were typically bought by
departments in creative services using Quark,
Illustrator, PhotoShop, etc., said Mr Moon, although
he knew of a $2 billion publishing firm that ran its
entire business off Canto and Filemaker. Second-tier
systems were usually found in the printing business.
The top level was for complex systems that had to
integrate with existing architecture.
Mr Stevenson asked which cultural institutions
were already using DAM systems. Members men-
tioned the Male Clinic, US universities of Texas,
Cornell and Stanford, the National Archives of the
Netherlands, the Vatican, Sony Pictures, Boston
broadcaster WGBH, the UK's Courtaulds Institute,
Readers Digest, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Tele-
phone Corporation), the US National Football
League and New York multimedia publisher, Martha
Stewart Living. Athenian Professor Ioannidis com-
mented, dryly: `I don't hear any museums in there!'
Mr Hellier identified a US museum, the Freedom
Forum's `Newseum' (www.newseum.org), which had
an archive on `the progression of print'.
1
Canto Cumulus,
www.canto.com
2
Extensis Portfolio,
www.extensis.com/
portfolio/
3
Filemaker Pro,
www.filemaker.com/
products/fm_home.html
4
Artesia Technologies,
www.artesia.com
5
Tecmath AG,
www.tecmath.de
entertainment-centred culture that is about produ-
cing products that sell.You create a product to sell
and, if it doesn't sell, it sucks!'
Compounding this was one other consideration:
`Senior executives are not motivated by opportunity
but by risk aversion. So, the way to motivate direc-
tors to do the right thing is to have data that say here
is what works; here is what doesn't work; here is
what our customers want.'
requirements and access privileges.These required
careful study but could be met with standard data
modelling processes.