Jennifer Sellar discusses Digital Asset Management
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Jennifer Sellar. Jennifer, how are you?
Jennifer Sellar: [0:10] I’m good, thanks.
Henrik: [0:11] Jennifer, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Jennifer: [0:14] I am the Senior Digital Image Archivist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I’ve been here almost nine years. I started out working in more traditional archives. I’m working with photography and film collections. I have an MLIS. And then, a job opened up, when I moved to New York at MoMA. They were looking for someone to organize the workflow and the digital images they were taking in the imaging studio.
[0:43] When I came in, they were originally working with the Excel Spreadsheet, some basic metadata that they were adding in, while they were shooting images. My job was initially to organize the studio, and get all of their workflow, so that it was set up, so that they weren’t using [laughs] spreadsheets. We’re able to track all their images. At the same time, the museum actually started the processing of getting a DAM System, and had chosen one using a committee through various people at the museum.
[1:13] Once that was established, I was the primary person to the front-end of the DAM at the museum. I work with all of the different departments, working with their workflow, and getting their materials into the DAM. Then, I work with a committee and various people through the museum, primarily in IT, so that the DAM is running on a daily basis.
Henrik: [1:36] Jennifer, how does a modern art museum use Digital Asset Management?
Jennifer: [1:41] We use it as a workflow for all of our images. Actually now, not just imaging materials, but all sort of multimedia materials in the museum. We started out, as I’ve said, in the imaging studio, because the imaging studio’s responsible for taking all the images of the artwork. Those are used for publications, retail or anything at the museum. We would use it for the website.
[2:11] Once we got that established, we started using it for all imaging. It’s been slowly growing, retail, graphics, the conservation department. All of their images are also in there and fully searchable. Everyone at the museum has some sort of access. Most users have a basic access to be able to download a JPEG from the [DAM] system.
[2:36] We actually have our rights management outsourced to two companies. One is Scala, which is in Italy, the other one is Art Resources, which is based in New York. They oversee our Rights Management, but that flows through my department and through me. They are able to use the DAM System, to be able to find what we have for their researchers. It allows them to do research, where we don’t have to do it on our end, and then they’re responsible for overseeing the rights, and getting the images out to other people.
[3:07] We also use it as a workflow to get our images to our main museum database, TMS, which is used throughout the museum world. That also allows the website to be able to get images as well. We are now recently using another new system in the museum called “The Digital Repository for Museum Collections” which we call DRMC, which is basically a system archive and preserve any original digital artwork in the museum. They actually are providing access copies of those works that are available in the DAM for users. If a curator wants to watch one of those, they’re able to watch those in our DAM System.
[3:45] We, primarily, pull a lot of our data from the TMS System automatically. We put that in place. The TMS System has rights in regards to the artwork and uses in any of those documentation.
[3:57] That’s pulled into the Asset Management System. Our resources in Scala will be able to see what the images are, if they have any issues. Again, we’re providing the image. If a person is using that, they would actually go to the artists’ estate or the artist themselves, and then get their additional permission. It’s fairly complicated.
[4:18] We’ve actually looked into some additional rights system, because you’ll hear from a lot of people with DAM Systems. One DAM doesn’t usually fit everything perfectly. Rights seems to be a big issue. We have some basic rights information, but obviously, as you get into things like video, which we just started pulling in, rights gets much more complicated than with just one artist. It becomes very complicated.
[4:45] We’re looking at different ways of putting that in through using a documentation that would be attached with the asset, versus it necessarily being searchable directly as a field in the DAM. That’s one thing when you’re working in a museum, especially in modern museums. Somewhere like The Met, someone that’s dealing with stuff that’s out of copyright, it’s a little bit easier, but we have to be very concern about how our permissions are set.
[5:08] A lot of times, people don’t realize all the rights involved, when you’re working with people. They want to go ahead and use the image [laughs] , if they have full access to it or are able to download it very easily without going through a process of someone with checks and balances. A lot of that is set through permissions.
[5:26] Primarily, there are very few people in the museum who have full access to be able to download. Those people tend to be people who are working in departments who would understand rights, so publications obviously, they understand that they can’t just take an image and automatically use it.
Henrik: [5:42] Jennifer, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with DAM?
Jennifer: [5:45] For us, and this is a challenge, no matter where you are, people are producing so much content at this point. I’ve been in the studio. We’ve seen the number of growth images we do. It’s massive, the amount that we do now, compared to what we did eight years ago. Again, same thing with video and audio in the museum. Every department is producing more and more materials, honestly with less people.
[6:13] It’s very difficult to get people to buy into being able to put, to give us the information or materials in a way that will actually work in the Asset Management System. Also, a lot of times, the people we work with don’t necessarily even have the ability to do it. In the studio, we have great resources. We have Photoshop. We have Bridge.
[6:34] We have all of these ways to put in metadata, and set up metadata to automatically go into materials. There are a lot of people working in the museum who can’t even open a TIF image [laughs] on their machines. A lot of times, they’ll look at a disc from an outside photographer, and they won’t be able to even to do anything with them.
[6:53] A big goal for us is to try to figure out a good space, where those people can view enough information and have workflows that they can get that material to us in a way that it works in the DAM. It’s finding that sweet spot between that, which always very difficult.
[7:10] We have the luxury of being able to implement our DAM fairly slowly. We’ve been able to go to departments and realize when they’re ready and when they’re not [laughs] , because if not, if people just throw you materials, it doesn’t work very well with the DAM, because while you can put them in there, they’re not usable if they don’t have their correct data or organization with them. I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge for us.
[7:32] It’s being able to handle all the materials that are coming in with the amount of people working. We’ve had a lot of success. Because of that issue, we’ve been really successful of being able to integrate any systems that were available already, which I talked a little bit about TMS. We are able to pull a lot of data from that database, because it’s really rich.
[7:56] There are people who are working with that full‑time, who really know the art, the artists and all that information. It makes sense. We can do that with artwork. We have an object ID that’s unique. We’re able to pull all that information about the artwork automatically in every day. Also, we’ve been able to do a workflow, where we’ve been able to automate pulling and approving the materials.
[8:19] As we go along each step, we’ve been able to automate more and more. A curator has to proof an image, and it goes automatically to the database into the website, without them having to do a lot of work. That’s been a great success. Also, just putting the materials into the DAM System has allowed us to see overlaps in different departments, because departments tend to not necessarily always speak to each other.
[8:43] There were some departments who are taking similar images of each other, so that they could actually realize that they didn’t need to rehire a photographer to shoot something, since we already had it. They’re able also to understand a little bit more at the front end that rights are important. There used to be a lot of handshake agreements [laughs].
[9:02] They realize now if they’re going to pay an outside photographer for images that it would be great, if we can get the rights for those, and get people to sign off releases. It’s helped the museum realize that kind of thing that will help in the long run for these assets to be used more than once.
Henrik: [9:21] Jennifer, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Jennifer: [9:25] For people who are trying to go into the industry, I would say there is more and more course work raised on DAMs, but there is so much out there, if you are already working, so I wouldn’t go a more traditional library field. There are things, like the DAM meetups in New York, which are great. It’s really amazing. You can meet people. You can learn about the industry. It’s a great place for contacts, any meetups.
[9:46] I was going to the other day, there’s a meetup for that, if you need to learn about scripting, if you need to learn about taxonomy. Those are amazing groups, and they’re great resources. Now, there’s so much more material on the Web.
[9:59] I was looking at film and video. It’s not my strong suit and background, NYU has a film archiving program. They put all their syllabus online now. You can see all the course material. A lot of times, there’s links. Sometimes, there’s lectures.
[10:18] It’s really amazing from when I went to library school 15 years ago, what is out there and free. There is so many more ways to network than there were 10 years ago even. Just use every kind of person that you can go out there.
[10:32] I would also recommend getting internships. We always have interns. I’ve gotten a couple of interns actually from the DAM meet up for people who are interested. Some people were like adult returning students, and not necessarily who would have originally started out in that background. If you’re in a city or anywhere, there’s Asset Management Systems in every field. It’s a growing industry.
[10:51] For people who already work in Asset Management, for us the largest success for us is to look through the museum and see we don’t have a large staff. That’s very common, especially in non‑profits and museums. We’ve been able to collaborate and use other departments to get a lot of things done. That’s what I look at. That’s been successful here for us.
Henrik: [11:14] Thanks, Jennifer.
Jennifer: [11:15] Thanks.
Henrik: [11:16] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdamblog.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For this and 150 other podcast episodes, including transcripts of every interview, go to anotherdampodcast.com. Thanks again.