Better Archiving Through Digital Asset Management (DAM)

by Mindy Carner

Digital transformation is a common topic of conversation at Optimity Advisors. We are constantly talking about how the digital revolution has completely disrupted business and absolutely demands changes in business practice. I come from a library and information science background, having received my MLIS in 2011 and held positions deeply interwoven with metadata, search and preservation. For my part as a librarian in the mix, I think about the ever-expanding forms of media to be documented, organized and preserved in our cultural institutions, and in corporate archives. Today, many companies are turning to an existing trend in corporate archiving – applying best practices from Digital Asset Management to the archival storage and sharing of artifact records. Historically, in any archive, everything was documented on paper, but digital records make for speedy search and retrieval. Thus, we can combine traditional archival practices with the speed, agility, and flexibility of ever-evolving DAMs to help companies keep track of their priceless corporate memorabilia and important records.

Why Maintain a Corporate Archive in the First Place?

Corporate Cultural Heritage

Another of the factors that compel companies to develop a corporate archive is the corporate cultural heritage. From marketing materials to historical packaging and signage, many organizations take an active role in preserving their own history by developing an archive. This safe space provides access to develop informative timelines, social media “throwback” content, and anniversary celebration materials.

Storage Space and Clean-up

The influx of digital content in the last decade has made it imperative to clean up both digital and physical storage spaces of old, inactive materials. There is nothing worse than having to wade through several iterations of an asset, including multiple of the same version, and confusion about which is the final version. There is also the struggle with paying for both digital and physical storage.

Findability

The purpose of the archive is, ultimately, to make it possible to access our cultural heritage by storing, organizing, and preserving the artifacts that represent it. Archives have accomplished this by following organizing principles and using finding aids. Archivists take in artifacts, describe them to the best of their ability including information about their origins, owners, time period, topics or people represented, and then make them findable by creating finding aids that help people search by whatever topic they are searching for, whether it is a time period, a person or family, or a specific topic.  

How do DAM Best Practices Benefit an Archive?

Archival theory and practice is time-tested and expert-approved. The rules for describing archives are prescriptive (See DACS: Describing Archives, A Content Standard), but they do evolve with the times. That being said, there is very little about the actual practice of keeping the records that describe archival artifacts, or the digital renditions (assets) of those artifacts. The vocabulary to be used, the system of record, and how to present those to researchers is at the discretion of each institution. The processes and software of DAM fit in well to provide those missing elements in a digital world.

Workflow

Efficient workflow design is an extremely valuable aspect of DAM that will often make or break program buy-in while ushering in a number of efficiency wins. Smart workflows alleviate reliance on email to send and receive assets for edit and approval. They also make processes seamless and automatic, removing steps from manual processes. Workflows integrated with DAM technology can support a records management program by triggering regular reviews. An integrated archiving workflow will ensure that content that has been flagged for archiving moves through the proper channels, receives the proper metadata, and ends up in the correct repository for posterity.

Automation

Automations help move content along the lifecycle based on metadata, and/or provide the proper metadata based on folders, also shortening otherwise manual processes. Automations can streamline the movement of the content into an archive by allowing date-based reminders, automatic archiving upon finalization, and automatic changes to metadata fields based on movement into the archive.

Metadata

Metadata is the data about content that makes it searchable, navigable, and findable. It is the key to digital organization. Organizations cannot talk about building a strong DAM program without this word being part of the conversation. Metadata is ubiquitous across DAM platforms and should be utilized in any system that stores content for later use.

An archive is no different. In fact, true archival artifacts typically require more metadata than content that does not have lasting value. Some DAM systems make it easy to track all of the important data related to physical artifacts – which will be unique from the important fields for digital atrtifacts – by supporting metadata collections. Metadata collections are groups of metadata fields that are only triggered if a certain rule is satisfied- for instance, if Asset type = Physical, then an artifact will get fields like “materials” and “physical dimensions” but assets with Asset type = Digital would not get those fields. This means that physical artifacts will have their specific metadata fields, and digital artifacts will have their own.  Use of extensive metadata in building a corporate archival DAM will again drive asset value by improving findability, and increase cost savings in time spent searching for artifacts.

Conclusion

Neither archiving nor DAM is particularly new, and DAM has been used to support digital archiving for some time. Corporate archives seeking a single repository for their artifact records can find an excellent solution in DAM. Not only as a source of storage and safekeeping, but also a much-improved form of search and discovery.

Join Mindy Carner and Chick-fil-A’s Martha Lawrence, head of Heritage Services, on May 05, 2016 at 2:20pm for their talk “DAM and Corporate Archives” where they will present a case study on Chick-fil-A’s use of Digital Asset Management to manage the digital artifacts and the physical artifact records for their corporate archive.

Mindy is a Manager at Optimity Advisors. She holds a masters degree in library science and has a professional background doing project and team management for Digital Asset Management (DAM), Knowledge Management (KM) and Corporate Archives projects that emphasize metadata and taxonomy development. Mindy has rounded experience in Digital Asset Management projects, having performed information and content audits, stakeholder and Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews, business and system owner interviews, workflow assessment and development, use case and persona development and card sorts. Mindy has lead many projects that used these tasks to develop system metadata including a metadata model, controlled vocabulary, navigational taxonomy and metadata crosswalks. Finally, Mindy has a background working with archival and rare collections from her time in graduate school where she studied with an emphasis in archival theory.

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