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ynamic insertion of live data into a graphic,
photo or illustration as a DAM system deli-
vers it to an individual user has many pro-
found and wide-ranging implications for commercial
enterprises and cultural heritage institutions.The
instant delivery of customised or personalised images
to users of any Website around the world transforms
a cultural artefact into a digital asset. An institution
could connect its asset
repository to a
network of im-
age centres in key
centres around
the world. In
effect, this
would enable an
institution to
deliver a num-
ber of digital
services to au-
thorised end-
users while
full, centralised
control of their
digital assets.
Let's take
a concrete
Vatican has
almost two
millennia of
cultural arte-
facts that it
wants to share
with appro-
priate users. It
might make
some of its
material avail-
able to any
legitimate user
simply for the
asking. In effect, it does that already when it posts
JPEGs and GIFs on its Website. Anyone can grab any
image from a Web page. Nonetheless, it spends a lot
of time in responding to requests from tens (if not
hundreds) of thousands of people a year.This inclu-
des scholars from universities and seminaries, publi-
We start with reusable files, following a set of reuse
standards. Many firms already have informal reuse
standards. In the particular instance above, a reuse
standard would specify where to place text or images
in a multilayer illustration or digital photo file. Of
course, an institution will possess tens of thousands
or more physical artefacts in need of digitisation, and
a sizeable number of undocumented digital files pro-
duced over the past 15 or so years that may or may
not have a reuse value. In most cases, curators will
need to determine the value of cataloguing these
files, and place them into a DAM system.
The DAM system uses a detailed description of
each asset to facilitate tracking and speedy retrieval.
International committees have developed a number
of standardised descriptions or `metadata'; a good
DAM system will incorporate them. Most DAM
systems will ingest hundreds or thousands of files per
hour, capturing a lot of descriptive metadata.This
includes static images, engineering drawings and
compound documents (with text, fonts, images, gra-
phics), as well as video, animation, sound, voice and
The digital asset repository works like a library:
patrons can check an asset. However, a repository
also keeps track of any changes that the user may
have made to an asset as well as applying a set of pre-
determined rights and permissions to a particular
asset.This might include the need to sign a clearance
contract or pay a royalty -- more business rules.
DAM systems and Websites share a dirty little
secret: If a user cannot find a desired object or page,
two things happen. First, the user goes away empty-
handed (and less inclined to come back). Second, the
user spent precious time on unproductive work (for
which somebody always pays). For these reasons, a
robust and multi-mode search function remains criti-
cal for DAM and Websites. In the spirit of killing two
or more birds with one stone, many firms now inte-
grate the more robust, accurate and faster search
function of their DAM system into their public
Websites and corporate portals.
At the request of an individual user, the DAM
system would locate the appropriate asset and extract
the required layers of data that the Image Server (far
right in the figure above) will transform into a high-,
medium- or low-resolution image.The Image Server
can also perform another piece of automated work-
flow magic: It can grab live production data from an
accounting system, customer database, or another
data source, and instantly stitch it into the graphic,
image, photo or document.