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hat connection do cultural institutions
make between their collections and
publishing? The question came from
Guy Hellier, the London representative of Artesia
Technology, a Rockville, Maryland, company that
builds digital asset management systems.
The V&A's James Stevenson said the museum had
been publishing since its foundation in 1856. Most
British museums had well-established publishing
departments.The real problem was how to decide
what to digitise next for publication. `We have thir-
teen departments and a collecting policy that goes
from toys to vacuum cleaners and encompasses
Renaissance art. Each one has national importance.'
Michael Moon recommended a Website survey to
identify `what gets you in the door' and `an uncom-
mon level of courage to sacrifice sacred cows' in
order to find a single answer.
10,000 from its digital store and the pressure for
more and more images and metadata was intense.
`But what there isn't is a mechanism for us to do that
as an institution on a rational basis.'
Harking back to his earlier warning about the
hazards of change management, Mr Moon said:
`Deployment of an asset management system is not
about making the curator's job easier but deploying
technology to move the institution forward.' One of
a DAMS' attributes was analysis of asset usage. Act-
ivity data showed where users put the true value of
the collection - information of interest to all an
institution's stakeholders.
Friso Visser had another angle. He is a museologist
working for the international management consul-
tancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the cultural sector
of the European Union's Information Society
Technologies (IST) programme.
He said: `Accountability is more and more an issue
for cultural institutes: the amount of visitors coming
through the door; the number of Web visitors; the
exhibitions produced, or leaflets, brochures, school
programmes, etc. - the "performance" of an institute.
DAM systems can be used to confront these. I would
think you are looking at something that increases the
value of the assets within the institution.'
DigiCULT 19
More with Metadata
`An effective Digital Asset Management strategy
can actually increase the value of your digital assets
by capturing detailed information (metadata)
about the asset. Assets are important, but the
information about an asset makes it useful (and
re-useful) to the organisation.'
What is DAM?, Artesia Technologies,
Rockville, Maryland, US
t's not as simple as that, said Graham Higley. He
is the new (by only three months) head of IT
and libraries in London's mighty Natural History
Museum, a Mecca for all small boys fascinated by
dinosaurs.The museum's life-size moving, breathing,
roaring model of a Cretaceous tyrannosaurus rex makes
the faint-hearted quail and timid tots shriek.The
institution has 100 million other artefacts, including
a million books and half a million art works, but has
digitised only one per cent of them.
`We know precisely what gets people in the
doors', said Mr Higley, `Dinosaurs! We have done the
dinosaurs.We have more rubber dinosaurs than you
can shake a stick at.That's the one per cent. But our
purpose is to expose the entire collection by at
least another ten to twenty per cent over the next
five years.'The museum probably earned up to
t took a forthright Italian university IT academic
and the Essen Forum's only woman member to
cut to the bone of the issue. `Museums are often
not created for the visitor.They are created for the
curators. Putting them in that end-user perspective is
crucial', said Franca Garzotto, a multimedia authority
at the electronics and information department of the
Polytecnico di Milano, the largest engineering uni-
versity in Europe.
She was troubled by the amounts of time and
money spent by cultural institutions on classifying,
cataloguing, digitising, preserving and storing.The
Italian Government spent millions of euro on them,
she said, adding: `The issue, however, is making this
content of value to the citizens and consumer. I
think it is important to define and develop exploita-
tion models for the digital content. Instead of trying
to digitise everything, let's digitise those sections that
can be useful for a broader audience.'
All of which underscored a deep, little-discussed
issue, said Michael Moon: `Most collections represent
high culture, the patronage of kings, popes and bish-
ops who commissioned most of these high culture
things. On the other hand, we have a mass, popular,