cultural institutions in Europe with huge assets.
Some have digitised images of hundreds of thousands
of these assets.The problem: How to exploit them?
Should they take a lesson from one-time Cockney
costermonger, Sir Jack Cohen, who founded Britain's
top Tesco supermarkets on his 1950s barrow-boy
philosophy?: `Pile it high, sell it cheap!' Should they,
perhaps, take a tip from US oil baron J. Paul Getty's
oft-quoted serendipity for success?: `Rise early, work
hard, strike oil.' Or, seriously now, could they find
the Euro lodestone with the new millennium's
Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) tech-
This seemed to provide the answer, and the Essen
Twelve - scholars, museologists, engineers and tech-
nicians - met in a round-table workshop during the
September 2002 European AIIM Conference to dis-
sect the problem with one among them, the man
who coined the term almost a decade ago, Michael
Moon, President and Chief Executive of his
Californian Silicon Valley research consultancy,
They were far from unanimous in their apprecia-
tion of the technology. One said positively:`If we don't
jump on the bandwagon, we are going to miss a great
opportunity.' But, further round the table, another
thought: `When it comes to the curators, I am criti-
cal of a DAMS.' Next to him, another museum man
anguished: `Prices of DAMS I have seen are unafford-
able.' Mr Moon had quite some convincing to do.
Digital Cultural Heritage Objects. These experts thought
much more needed to be done before the problems
they had been set could be resolved.
In autumnal Essen, however, the subject of debate
was more strategic. Moderator Michael Moon, scholar-
ly in half-moon glasses, opened the debate with a key
presentation defining the scope of the discussions.
He recalled finding the progenitor of DAMS - a
small multimedia product by a company called Aldus
that was subsequently bought by Adobe, he thought.
`We found that users were getting extraordinary pro-
ductivity gains as a function of reusing media compo-
nents', he told the forum.`One particular project, on
the Boeing 777, documented 1,470 engineering hours
saved by being able to find and reuse pre-existing dra-
wings for documentation.'
Mr Moon and his firm, publishers of executive best
practice papers on the rapid deployment of technology,
were gripped. As a user and student of technology, he
said:`I tend to have a very practical focus:What's in it
for me, what kind of economic returns do we get for
this?' Now he saw digital asset management at the core
of companies' processes to `find and serve customers
and ultimately set up self-service satisfaction'.
DEFINING THE SCOPE
Digits with commercial value
`The term digital assets implies that digital files
have commercial value - that another party will
pay to own or use them.These assets also have
value as process agents that reduce process cycle
times and external purchases while ultimately
increasing revenue and profit per employee.'
Digital Asset Management Market Report 2002
brochure, Gistics Inc., Emeryville, CA. 2002
The forum was the second in a series of seven plan-
ned over two and a half years by DigiCULT, the
European Union's technology watchdog for the cultu-
ral and scientific heritage sector.
The first forum, consisting of another nine Northern
Hemisphere experts and held four months earlier in
Barcelona, considered the Integrity and Authenticity of
THE 18-MONTH RULE
ext, a little lesson in bookkeeping practice:
How to define an asset. Apply commonly
held accountancy rules, said Mr Moon:
`Things that have real value meet the general accoun-
ting practice for what constitutes an asset ... this object
has reuse for greater than eighteen months. If you can
show reuse greater than eighteen months you can link
the object to its development costs and re-express it as
a revenue event, a sale, or a discrete cost saving.'
A question came from bearded James Stevenson,
Manager of the Photographic Department at London's
vast Victoria and Albert Museum. He doubted that the
18-months rule applied to cultural heritage institutions
`because we can go back 150 years and reuse things
with a valued use for today'.
True, said Moderator Moon.There was obviously a
gulf between commercial and heritage enterprise since
any object that came into an institution became an
artefact. He went on:`It nonetheless has economic
value and, while it may not necessarily be reflected in
the balance sheets of the institution, the principle of
unlocking value remains the same. Ultimately, it is
about increasing sponsorship, licensing revenues, pro-
duct sales and other sorts of academicals that help in
healthy revenue support.'