background image
DigiCULT 35
computers via Web brow-
sers is far from certain',
he points out,`but what
we do know is that digi-
tal content is here to
stay: content now has to
be in bits and bytes
before it can be deploy-
ed in any media, inclu-
ding print'. For that rea-
son, a digital asset mana-
gement system (DAMS)
which allows for the
creation, storage and
management of objects
and associated metadata
independently of any
media or platform on
which they might subse-
quently be deployed see-
med like a better long-
term bet than a Web-
oriented system.`We
knew that a Web content
management system
would deliver exactly
what we wanted... but
not much else.The
DAMS gives us a power-
ful back-end infrastruc-
ture for all kinds of
deployment and distri-
bution.Whatever the
digital future brings, the
Courtauld will be ready
for it.'
The Courtauld
Institute uses a digital
asset management
system, Artesia's TEAMS (www.artesia.com), allied to
an Oracle database.TEAMS is widely used in the
commercial media industry, but the Courtauld Institute
is its first customer in the heritage sector (although it
has also been chosen by the Freedom Forum for its
`Newseum' [www.newseum.org] to provide access to
their vast journalism history archive and to develop
interactive multimedia exhibits for their new museum
building scheduled to open in Washington, DC, in
2006
6
). Other DAMS suppliers considered during the
proposal phase for the Art and Architecture project
were Bulldog (since bought up by Documentum) and
Picdar.The cost of software licences, installation, confi-
guration and training was in the order of 80,000.The
key role of TEAMS is to support the creation (or
I
mages from the Conway Library have not been
systematically catalogued before, so the first chal-
lenge was to develop a metadata schema capable of
capturing precisely what appears in a Conway image.
Given the range of material in the archive, this was an
intellectually stimulating exercise, the subject of many
long and sometimes heated discussions. A photograph
might seem a relatively easy item to catalogue: not so.
Consider the example of a set of images of Vranov
Castle in north east Slovakia. It was originally con-
structed in the eleventh century, then re-built in the
seventeenth. In the residential wing is a magnificent
decorated room,The Hall of the Ancestors, created by
the architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, with
decorations by the artist Johann Michael Rottmayr; it
contains much fine sculpture, including The Statue of
an Althan Family Ancestor by Tobias Kracker, comple-
ted c. 1795.
7
It will be clear from even this brief
description that Vranov Castle has to be catalogued for
what it is: a complex portmanteau of architecture,
sculpture and painting created and assembled over
many centuries, which embraces many different kinds
of relationships - for instance, the relationship between
the castle and its various wings, the castle and its prin-
cipal rooms, the rooms and the paintings that decorate
them, and the items of sculpture that have been created
or collected there. Conway images could naturally
depict one or a number of these items, any of which
could be the intended target of an online search, and
all of which must therefore be individually catalogued.
Finally, the photograph may have many kinds of
value in its own right: it may (and many Conway ima-
ges do) show an object or building prior to restoration,
or even destruction; it may be a nineteenth-century
print, of particular interest to students of photography;
it may, especially if it contains depictions of people,
have value to the student of social history; and of
course it may be a work of art in its own right.
The team at the Courtauld elected to make a distinc-
tion between objects and images of those objects, with
specific items of information stored against each, and
the two sets of records linked within the DAMS.This
has the obvious but important benefit that a building is
only ever catalogued once as a building, no matter how
SCHEMA DEVELOPMENT
`ingest'), management, and ultimately export of the
ever-growing repository of images and text.
Particularly critical to these processes is its flexible
handling of metadata and links, and its ability to import
a thesaurus to ensure the consistency and integrity of
the cataloguing effort.
5
Tom Bilson: Art and
Architecture. In: Courtauld
Institute of Art Newsletter,
Issue no. 12, Autumn 2001,
www.courtauld.ac.uk
(see News)
6
Artesia: Freedom Forum
Taps Artesia Technologies to
Create Multimedia Library
Showcasing the History of
Journalism (April 8, 2002),
www.artesia.com/pr/
freedom_forum.html
7
Giles O'Bryen points
out that the example of
Vranov Castle was discover-
ed by a search on the term
`oval' - the shape of The
Hall of the Ancestors.