Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Article: Why Digital Asset Management? A Case Study

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City began discussing a digital asset management system before 2002. Now the Met is in the second year of a planned three-year digital asset management implementation project. The project -- named Met Images -- "is one of the most expensive non-construction projects ever undertaken by the Met."

Implementing will take a shorter time than the planning did. As the article states:
The lengthy planning period was due, in part, to the Met’s commitment to asking and answering a series of questions not always built into the development process for digital asset management activities in the not-for-profit world. Our questions included quantitative ones such as: “How big is the collection of assets?” and “How much storage will be required?” We asked questions about proprietorship and access: “Who uses the assets?” and “Who will manage them?” We wondered about the quality and value of the assets: “Should images that are made available to the public be color corrected?” and “If the object’s descriptive record has not been reviewed, may it be distributed along with the asset?” and finally, “Are existing descriptions adequate to support successful searching at all?” We also asked a number of questions that forced the Met’s staff and executives to think through fundamental intellectual property policy positions: “Who decides who may use the assets, both inside and outside of the museum?” and “Is the Met’s goal to profit from the licensing of images, or to support an educational mandate for broad distribution?” All of these questions needed to be considered in light of a process that would, inevitably, seek to automate the answers. Processes and policies that had heretofore been entrusted to individuals within the organization would need to be formalized so that a system might manage them; decisions that had been made on an ad hoc basis now needed to be seen as patterns that formed policies. And as we found answers to our questions, the scope of the project inevitably grew.
To read the entire case study -- including their key concerns -- go here.

What stands out to me, as I read the case study, is that implementing such a system (and on the scale that the Met did) requires many skills and buy-in from many parts of the organization. (Of course, we all knew this, but it needs to be re-inforced constantly.) This is not something that one department can do alone and ensure that it will endure. It needs everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom to understand and support it.

As we've noted before, projects also take time. Notice that they began talking about the project before 2002 and have been formally planning it for several years. Now the implementation will take three years (if it stays on schedule). So this is a project that requires tremendous commitment to ensure that it just gets done.

This issue of RLG DigiNews is focused on digital asset management, so be sure to read or skim the entire issue.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My two cents on Asset Management, based on recent experience.