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DigiCULT
just selling cars.They were, for instance, a
large supplier of the World War II war
machinery. For many people GM cars are also
part of their personal history.The beautiful
thing is that GM has kept records of
its influence on American culture.
The company's media archive
contains a wealth of cultural
information that is now
made available for internal
and external use.'The images
in the Media Archive are a
real asset for GM in the sense
that they also generate an annual income of several
millions of dollars. Hellier: `One of the external users
is Mattel, the toy car producer.They have to have a
licence to be able to use the images. So do other
outside users.The DAMS that we implemented at
GM can also be used for licences and rights mana-
gement.'
One of the things that had to be solved was the
accessibility of the GM heritage. Hellier: `The people
working in the media archive had developed their
own vocabulary to categorise the images. A language
of 40,000 to 50,000 words they use to describe not
only the content of the image but also its atmo-
sphere. For instance, the term "wow shot", which
describes a real stunning picture. From this vocabu-
lary of specialised users we developed a more genera-
lised vocabulary for first-time users from outside the
Media Archive.'
Hellier acknowledges that, even if the board is
convinced of the usefulness of a DAMS, there is still
the problem of funding. A comprehensive system like
the ones Artesia implements can cost anything bet-
ween a half and a few million euros. For public insti-
tutions like museums this might be quite a hurdle.
Hellier: `In the DigiCULT Forum in Essen last
September someone suggested the creation of a user
group for DAMS. I think that is a very good idea. A
user group could help speed adoption, for instance
by developing standards for information storage and
exchange.That would certainly help the vendors. On
the other hand, the institutions could cut their cost,
for instance by using a common platform with per-
sonalised interfaces. Artesia has built such hosting
platforms, for instance for Getty Images, that are used
by a variety of customers.'
`D
igital Asset Management Systems
(DAMS) can be of great value to the
institutions that preserve our cultural
heritage.They can help them in managing their
collection in a structured way, but - and I think this
is even more important - they offer new possibilities
to reach a wider audience.' Although he is Director,
European Professional Services, for Artesia Techno-
logies, one of the twelve vendors that sell compre-
hensive DAMS, Guy Hellier is not your typical sales
rep. Apart from being educated in engineering phy-
sics, he really believes that DAMS can increase the
public's awareness of its cultural heritage and enhance
the `real' experience.
At the moment Artesia is implementing a DAMS
at Courtauld Institute of Art, digitising its superb
collection of art and architecture. Hellier still has a
lot of converting to do. Often curators are afraid that
making their collection available on the Internet will
cost them `real' visitors and hence money. Not only
the fee the visitors pay, but also because the number
of visitors is an important criterion for government
or sponsor funding. According to Hellier, there is no
need for cold feet. `On the contrary, I think that
making people aware via the Internet or other media
can increase the number of visitors. By informing
them, you can even make their visit more rewarding,
so that they come back to you.'
Artesia Technologies started in 1999 as a manage-
ment buy-out of The Thomson Corporation
(Toronto).The DAMS that had been developed for
internal use promised to have great potential for
other companies and institutions dealing with rich
media like images, maps,Web pages and streaming
video. According to Hellier, building a DAM soft-
ware company was not part of Thomson's core
business, so the internal project was put up for sale.
It was bought by the people who had developed it
with venture backing from Warburg-Pincus. Hellier
joined the company from its start in 1999 and at that
time he became project leader of its `launching' pro-
ject, the Media Archive of General Motors.This was
a three-quarters of a million dollar project where the
largest chunk of money went into converting almost
two terabyte of texts, images, both still and strea-
ming, and sound into standard format.
Hellier: `GM has had, and still has, a tremendous
impact on life in the US, which is far bigger then
An interview
with Guy
Hellier,
Artesia
Technologies
by
Joost van
Kasteren
DAMS M
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