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I
nstitutions from archives, libraries and muse-
ums to natural and environmental heritage
bodies are continually seeking new ways to
expand their provision of services.The development
of an infrastructure capable of handling dissemina-
tion and access to content in digital form has enabled
the creation of a new platform to support the provi-
sion of content and services constructed to exploit
and facilitate the use of that content. Over the past
decade an increasing amount of funding has been
D
igital assets have the very unique characte-
ristic of being both product and asset. Some
digital assets exist only in digital form
while others are created through the digitisation of
analogue materials such as text, still images, video
and audio. Content has the same value to institutions
as other assets such as facilities, products and know-
how. Just as an organisation seeks to make efficient
and effective use of its financial, human and natural
resources, it will now wish to use its digital assets to
their full potential without reducing their value.
Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) provi-
de mechanisms to enable institutions to manage their
digital resources.When associated with suitable poli-
cies, procedures and licensing arrangements, DAMS
provide institutions with a way to facilitate the
exploitation of their digital assets without depleting
the value of the asset itself.
At a basic level Digital Asset Management systems
use technology, such as commercial-off-the-shelf
database management tools, to manage resources in
ways that enable users to discover them and owners
to track them.This may consist of either media cata-
logues with pointers to where the assets are stored or
asset repositories, or a combination of both.These
can be made accessible for use only in-house by staff
in the content originating organisation, for restricted
DigiCULT 7
POSITION PAPER ON DAMS
FOR THE HERITAGE SECTOR
By Seamus Ross
DEFINING DAMS
INTRODUCTION
available at all levels, from revenue funding within
institutions to grants from national and international
funding bodies and charities, to support the creation
of digital representations of analogue holdings such
as paintings, prints, documents, photographs and
audio recordings. Much of this work has proceeded
as discrete institutional projects that have delivered
their results as standalone Web pages or on CD-
ROM. Rarely do heritage institutions have the tech-
nological infrastructure or the skills to manage these
digital products as renewable resources.There is
widespread recognition that current practices do not
provide the most effective and powerful ways of
managing and providing access to digital materials.