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DigiCULT 37
G
iles O'Bryen always intended that the first year
of the project should be used to install a robust
technology infrastructure, build the right sup-
plier relationships, and hire a team capable of at least
meeting, and at best handsomely exceeding, the com-
mitments to the funding body.The second year will be
focussed on building a delivery platform capable of
conveying the richness of the assets and their associated
record sets to the target audience, and on integrating the
project with the wider activities of the Courtauld
Institute.The first of these goals will build upon the
ability of TEAMS to export pre-defined subsets of
assets and metadata in an XML framework that will
greatly simplify the business of delivering them online.
As for the second, one of the key reasons for investing
in a DAMS has yet to be realised at the Courtauld.`I
know we can deliver the project this way', says Giles
O'Bryen,`but next year I hope to demonstrate to the
Courtauld that the capability created by the project has
a much wider application than that.Whenever anyone
anywhere in the Institute creates a digital asset, whether
a PhD thesis or a publicity shot of the gallery, it could
be stored in TEAMS. And whenever anyone needs to
find a Conway image or look at a drawing from the
Gallery Collection, I hope that one day it will be second
nature to search TEAMS first. For an institution that
depends so entirely upon the availability of images and
information about them, DAM is really a godsend, and
in due course will be seen as an essential piece of good
housekeeping for the Courtauld, and many other pla-
ces like it.'
To conclude, below is a summary of what the Art
and Architecture team has learnt so far about the
benefits and challenges of using a DAM system:
Key benefits:
Capable of handling assets in all media.
Capable of storing assets independent of the
platform on which they will be delivered.
Full metadata handling, highly configurable for
different asset types.
Capable of importing a thesaurus and using it to
drive selection of metadata values.
Rich link handling, capable of expressing many
different kinds of relationships.
Browser client, minimises demands on the IT infra-
structure in what is essentially a low-tech environment.
Bulk import and automated metadata generation.
Robust security features.
Key Challenges:
Educating the Courtauld in the difference between
standalone, desktop databases intended for private
use and full-scale client-server databases intended for
public access.
Keeping innovative technology simple, and not
straying far from out-of-the-box functionality.
Developing schemata that truly reflect the assets, and
are therefore capable of satisfying both academic and
generalist lines of enquiry.
Fostering an environment in which the use of digital
assets is second nature (e.g. replacing slide caddies
with Power-Point shows).
Ensuring that interfaces to the DAM are always
simple but effective.
CURRENT STATUS, AND LESSONS LEARNT
pher works through
the collection, storing
high-resolution versi-
ons of each image on
CD. Files are named
using the unique
accession number for
each item, which allo-
ws the digital image
to be married up with
its pre-
existing catalogue
record. On import,
TEAMS generates
information about the
capture conditions, resolution, dimensions and format
of the digital image, then creates three versions for use
within the DAMS: a thumbnail, a medium-resolution
JPEG for quick access, and a Portable Network
Graphics (PNG) file for more detailed inspection.The
cataloguers work through each image and record set,
checking the information and adding new project-
specific keywords.
Conway photographs are given a unique number,
then sent to a third-party supplier (Ark Digital in
London) for capture.The prints are returned along
with the high-resolution digital file. Again, the digital
image is imported and converted into the standard for-
mats. Cataloguers work through folders of prints, check
the number, locate the appropriate file and catalogue
the image, sometimes creating an object record first if
it does not already exist.The prints are then returned
to the shelves.
The CD sets are currently being archived separately,
although at a future date the budget may allow pur-
chase of a high-volume CD reading unit, which would
enable near-line storage of the original high-resolution
files for internal use only: this would make it possible
for users to access the original files from within
TEAMS, albeit access times would be many times
slower than for the JPEG and PNG versions.