August 2021 SIG Corner: DAM SIG

By MCN DAM SIG Chairs Jessica Herczeg-Konecny, Lead Technical Analyst, Digital Asset Management, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art & Rachael Winter Durant, Digital Asset Management on the Solutions team at Gates Archive

Jessica Herczeg-Konecny
Rachael Winter Durant

In this month’s MCN SIG Corner highlighting Digital Asset Management (DAM), we want to take a moment to reflect on how the DAM field within the cultural heritage sector has been affected in the last 18 months. The requisite shift from in-person experiences to a digitally-focused, online-only institutional presence brought to light certain gaps in the understanding of Museums’ content-creation pipeline.

Two of the most common misconceptions about the DAM field are 1) that Digital Asset Management is just a complex piece of software and 2) Digital Asset Managers are solely system administrators. This oversimplification of DAM work is not new, but it is endemic of a business desire to have one-and-done solutions without understanding or recognizing the people and on-going expertise needed to develop and maintain these systems. A lot of work goes into Digital Asset Management — a lot. Even artificial intelligence and machine learning require training and monitoring.

A more accurate explanation of Digital Asset Management is that the people who work in this field are responsible for the dual tasks of 1) providing robust access to the files that are critical to our organizations and 2) maintaining the authenticity, integrity, metadata, and context of these files. These two aims are like two sides of a coin — one cannot exist without the other. True asset management entails ongoing stewardship, administration, auditing, integration, and adaptation to continuously improve user experiences and asset security. 

Although there’s often only a single Digital Asset Manager at an institution, this work simply cannot be done in a silo. Cross-departmental collaboration is necessary to ensure our implementations satisfy the mission and vision of our museums. A holistic, enterprise-wide Digital Asset Management ecosystem is not just a project, it’s a process. And it requires conversations, understanding, and problem solving, because these systems are not primarily for us, the administrators. They are for enabling broad access to our collections and allowing our colleagues ease and efficiency in their work, so nurturing relationships with agencies, partners, and networks to promote meaningful connections is integral to our work. 

One way we build these connections is outside of our institutions and through communities of practice. The MCN DAM SIG recently had a lively conversation on the value of participating in both formal and ad hoc user-groups for skill-sharing and innovating with colleagues at other institutions and industries — if you aren’t sure a user group already exists for your DAMS system, go forth and establish one yourself! We can’t tell you how much we’ve learned through generous conversations with our peers. But also, we want MCN’s DAM SIG to be one such resource to you. If you’re and MCN member buthaven’t joined the SIG or logged into the new MCN Member Portal yet, check out this Member Portal Introduction to learn more about how to engage with the SIG—and don’t forget to visit your account settings to ensure you’re subscribed to receive SIG forum posts via email.

We look forward to discussing all things Digital Asset Management with you!

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