Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Enterprise Digital Asset Management System Pilot: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Enterprise Digital Asset Management System Pilot: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

Enterprise digital asset management (DAM) systems are beginning to be explored in higher education, but little information about their implementation issues is available. This article describes the University of Michigan's investigation of managing and retrieving rich media assets in an enterprise DAM system. It includes the background of the pilot project and descriptions of its infrastructure and metadata schema. Two case studies are summarized--one in healthcare education, and one in teacher education and research. Experiences with five significant issues are summarized: privacy, intellectual ownership, digital rights management, uncataloged materials backlog, and user interface and integration with other systems.


Universities are producers and repositories of large amounts of intellectual assets. These assets are of various forms: in addition to text materials, such as journal papers, there are theses, performances from performing arts departments, recordings of native speakers of indigenous languages, or videos demonstrating surgical procedures, to name a few. (1) Such multimedia materials have not, in general, been available outside the originating academic department or unit, let alone systematically cataloged or indexed. Valuable assets are "lost" by being locked away in individual drawers or hard disks. (2)

Managing and retrieving multimedia assets are not problems confined to academia. Media companies such as broadcast news agencies and movie studios also have faced this problem, leading to their adoption of digital asset management (DAM) systems. In brief, DAM systems are not only repositories of digital-rich media content and the associated metadata, but also provide management functionalities similar to database management systems, including access control. (3) A DAM system can "ingest digital assets, store and index assets for easy searching, retrieve assets for use in many environments, and manage the rights associated with those assets." (4)

In summer 2000, the University of Michigan (U-M) TV station, UMTV, was searching for a video archive solution. That fall, a U-M team visited CNN and experienced a "Eureka?" moment. As James Hilton, then-associate provost for academic, information, and instructional technology affairs, later wrote, "building a digital asset management into the infrastructure ... will be the digital equivalent of bringing indoor plumbing to the campus." (5) In spring 2001, an enterprise DAM system was considered for inclusion in the university infrastructure. Upon completion of a limited proof-of-concept project, a cross-campus team developed the request for proposals (RFP) for the DAMS Living Lab, which was issued in July 2002 and subsequently awarded to IBM and Ancept. In August 2003, hardware and software installation began in the Living Lab. (6) By 2006, the project changed its name to BlueStream to appeal to the growing mainstream user base. (7)

Six academic and two support units agreed to partner in the pilot:

* School of Education

* School of Dentistry

* College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

* School of Nursing

* School of Pharmacy

* School of Social Work

* Information Technology Central Services

* University Libraries

The academic units were asked to provide typical and unusual digital media assets to be included in the Living Lab pilot. The pilot focused on rich media, so the preferred types of assets were digital video, images, and other multimedia delivered over the Web.

The Living Lab pilot was designed to address four key questions:

* How to create a robust infrastructure to process, manage, store, and publish digital rich media assets and their associated metadata.

* How to build an environment where assets are easily searched, shared, edited, and repurposed in the academic model.

* How to streamline the workflow required to create new works with digital rich media assets. …

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