16 Feb Balboa Park Online Collaborative Article
At the end of February, 2011, we began the process of selecting a digital asset management system (DAMS). With a team of staff from 3 museums we organized a two-month of review of three different DAM systems. We decided to go with Piction, a system being used by many non-profit and government organizations, including the Queensland Government, the Cleveland Art Museum, and also recently selected by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We signed the contract on April 5th, and immediately ordered the hardware and implemented the system. As of today, there are 84,238 images and 111 videos for the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Piction. Within the next three weeks, we will add an additional 13,000 images for Museum of Photographic Arts and San Diego Natural History Museum. By April of 2012, a minimum of 70,000 more images and videos will be loaded for Mingei International Museum, Museum of Man, San Diego History Center, Hall of Champions, Junior Theater, San Diego Floral Society,Timken, Japanese Friendship Garden, Model Railroad Museum and World Beat Center.
For those who are unfamiliar, a digital asset management system is a software tool that facilitates management, maintenance, and use of digital assets. It’s used by all departments within an organization, allowing for streamlined workflows within or between departments. For example, if the marketing department needs a collection image for their end-of-year appeal, they will be able to find the image they need and download a copy at the correct resolution, freeing the image manager or registrar from responding to those requests.
Another function of a DAMS is that there is no longer a need to store the same image at multiple sizes for different uses. The system references a high quality “access master” image, and if the user has the correct permissions, can download a publication quality or web quality image off of the master, without the threat of accidentally deleting or changing it.
For the Balboa Park installation of Piction, we decided to do something innovative; rather than installing an instance of Piction for each member, we decided to centralize the implementation within the BPOC cloud. This allows BPOC to quickly manage maintenance and organization of the assets, hardware, and software. Each organization has a discrete directory of their media, and their logins for Piction are all specific to the organization. From the organization’s point of view, they’re only able to access their own materials when they log into the DAMS. The BPOC cloud was developed by implementing a private dark fiber network between the museums running at Gigabit speeds and along with more than 100 TBs of storage and a deploying a completely virtualized server infrastructure that can be shared across the private network.
One of the most promising items to come out of the project is not just a fabulous DAMS but also an agreement between the museums using the system to create an intellectual property commons between organizations to encourage (you heard me) sharing of images between the organizations without additional paper work. It’s kind of a private Creative Commons non-commercial use attribution license.
Another advantage of centralizing the installation is that Piction will be the engine that powers the website for the Presenting Balboa Park initiative. Even though organizations are accessing and managing their own assets, their efforts can fuel the big picture that is Balboa Park. They will be responsible for providing metadata, descriptions, and media, and marking what’s accessible by the public on the Presenting Balboa Park website.
From an asset management standpoint, there is a great deal of work that needs to be performed prior to loading the assets into the DAMS. For collections images, for example, it’s necessary to evaluate the type of data that’s associated with that image. Is the information in a database or spreadsheet? Are the filenames consistent with some unique identifier that can be linked to a dataset? Is the dataset able to be exported out of a database in a format that can be utilized by Piction or other software programs? If not, can it be converted (and do I have the right software or OS to do this? Don’t get me started on Mac/PC Excel inconsistencies…)? How many images does the organization have already? Are they organized in a logical directory structure and, if not, can it or should it be simplified for ease of use? Are there high-quality images, and, if not, do lower-quality images exist and how can those be harvested from dispersed locations, like desktop computers or multiple server directories? What kind of content is contained on the media? Does the organization want to keep it? How many duplicate images exist and can we get rid of them? Do I need to bring over an external hard drive and collect assets from desktop computers, or can the data be moved through a network connection? Are there holes in the image string (like a batch of accession numbers) and can those pieces be digitized? Is the data on the spreadsheet correct and can it be fixed? etc… These are the sorts of questions and processes that are necessary for preparing a batch of assets for a single organization.
Since November of 2010, BPOC has been able to address these questions and collect and organize assets for 20 institutions. This is an ongoing process, and as each organization is implemented within the DAMS, a new set of problems is bound to arise. But by working closely with each institution to identify their needs and existing materials, BPOC can help implement and streamline good asset management practices.