June 13, 2017
DAM Best Practices for Museums, Heritage & Cultural Institutions
Museums around the globe use digital asset management to preserve, archive, manage their digital assets, and connect DAM with Collection Management Systems. Museums must track both the seen and unseen, the physical assets, and the digital representation of those assets.
The integration of these two worlds is crucial.
Integration, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to museums and digital asset management. There are plenty of digital asset management best practices to consider when implementing DAM systems within museums – here are 5 to get you started. You can find more in the latest Digital Asset Management Best Practices Guide.
Best Practice #1: Have a raison d’etre!
Without a reason, you’re just throwing money to the DAM wind. Having a clearly defined business goal will help make your digital asset management initiative focused, directed, and more likely set to succeed. Some things to consider:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What are the benefits to your department – and to the greater organization?
- Who will this affect?
- Why now?
A defined business goal, however, is just the start.
Best Practice #2: Understand the impact. There will be impact.
I’m sure you will be cheerleader #1 when it comes to tracking every digital Rembrandt, but it’s important to understand the greater organizational impact. A digital asset management system’s success is made or broken by adoption across the organization. You can start small, but to really get the “flow” in workflow, you need to empower users to, you know, use it.
Then again, no one wants a new app icon on their desktop – so how do you help with adoption?
Best Practice #3: Communication, Communication, Communication.
Consistent, clear communication is at the top of the list of digital asset management best practices when it comes to ensuring success. A few things to consider under this umbrella:
- Try to rally widespread organizational support with executive buy-in. Yes, it’s great that Dave from the web department loves DAM, but executive support is key to expanding beyond the walls of the web-cave to multiple departments.
- Communicate clearly, succinctly, and warmly. None of us particularly enjoy being told what to do, right? But, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Just be sure to follow a few guidelines:
- DO: Communicate the benefits to the various departments.
- DO: Discuss why this is important to the overall mission of the museum.
- DO: Re-state your case, kindly.
- And of course: Say it with a smile!
Bottom line? Communication is key to winning the hearts and minds of users.
Best Practice #4 – Align your DAM system with your CMS.
Going beyond the people management aspect (important) and getting down to brass tacks (also important). AKA? The devil is in the details.
Ok, I mentioned this in the intro, but integration requires a top 5 spot on the digital asset management best practices list. And when discussing CMS/DAMS integration, I defer to The Collections Trust, a UK-based charity that works worldwide with museums, libraries, galleries, and archives to improve the management and use of their collections.
The Collections Trust created the impressive SPECTRUM Standards, and also released an in-depth analysis of SPECTRUM based Digital Asset Management for museums. In it, they map various SPECTRUM procedures (the physical ones, like object entry, acquisition, inventory control, etc, that are typically managed in the CMS) to corresponding actions in your digital asset management system (i.e. storing important asset data, like images, scans, and narratives).
They suggest full integration between your digital asset manager and your CMS system, so curators, marketers, exhibit managers, fundraisers, advertising agencies, and more all have access to relevant digital files when promoting a collection.
Best Practice #5: Develop implementation policies that enable success.
This digital asset management best practice goes a little deeper than brass tacks and into the technical weeds, but is also an important step on the road to shiny happy DAM success. Things like metadata, file naming conventions, and file format policies are truly the devils in the details that make the system hum.
This is particularly true with metadata. To quote the SPECTRUM DAM document:
The way in which your DAMS supports the creation, management, and re-use of metadata is the most important factor in how well it supports your organization’s needs. As your use of DAM develops, the quality and consistency of your metadata will make a critical difference to the benefit you can derive from your digital assets.
To read more of my own thoughts on metadata – check out this entry. But better yet? Watch our webcast that details SPECTRUM and digital asset management. You’ll learn what’s new in SPECTRUM 5.0 and more about Collections Management Systems (CMS) and DAM.
Ultimately, folks, there is plenty to be said about digital asset management for museums and the above best practices just scratch the surface.