Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Julia Kim. How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Julia Kim: Sure. I’ve been working, managing digital assets at the American Folklife Center for a little over a year. I also worked in preservation previously at New York University and with a commercial company as well. At the American Folklife Center, we received not only a lot of born digital collections, but we also have a large ethnographic folkloric multiformat collections that span from 19th century Edison cylinders that have been digitized multiple times as technologies increase to stuff like application, programming interface, grabs from https://storycorps.me. That all falls under the purview here.
Henrik de Gyor: How does the largest library in the world use Digital Asset Management?
Julia Kim: Sure. Here at the library, it supports our basic core functions and mission to preserve and provide access to Congress as well as the people of America here. Digital Asset Management here really encompasses a number of different systems, so we actually use, not only some in-house, homegrown repository systems, but a lot of different collection management systems that support our ability to locate, provide intellectual controls, do things like mass folk migrations, for example, or off of older servers or older systems or even formats. Of course, serve that up. One of the big pushes this past year in order to serve at a larger public is taking a lot of collection material that was previously analog and digitizing it in bulk, so we’re talking about 20 terabyte collections, easily, and putting them online.
All this requires a lot of management and control in terms of understanding the derivative creation. Also, managing the different staff, people involved throughout this process, and that includes not only vendors, but multiple departments external to the archive here that work with the larger library initiatives. It’s just really the core of what we do. We are a library. We are an archive. Without Digital Asset Management, whatever its forms may be, we would not be able to function. It’s not periphery. It’s the core function of … without it, the library would not be our library. The archive would not be our archive, I would say.
This past year, we’ve also switched from a previously … what was a rich, multiformat collection with a lot of sound recordings, actually, quarter inch audio or different tape formats, magnet media to primarily being born digital, about 2015, we totally flipped to being 98% in coming acquisitions being born digital, and that’s because, in some ways, with the born digital shift, there has been much more. It’s so easy to create. The collections we get are becoming more, more massive in size, so scaling up and creating more flexible Digital Asset Management systems has also been a big shift in this past year. Again, that includes not only systems but staff as well, so cross-training so that using Digital Asset Management is not only just something I do, but it’s across our staff and our archivists where it’s something that all archivists have to do here, now.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Julia Kim: Some of the biggest challenges include trying to talk across these different systems, I would say. One of the pushes this year is actually creating more robust microservices for bashing actions that simultaneously update different parts of the Digital Asset Management systems that were previously isolated from one another, required more human intervention and, therefore, were more prone to human error, I would say. Another challenge is simply the fact that Digital Asset Management changes so quickly where the field was several years ago, where it is now, especially with more complex content to formats, means that you constantly have to educate yourself and to learn and understand and stay involved with the field in a way that you might not need to in other areas. One example of that is where you’re receiving DPX files, which is massive file type for movie image formats for scanned cellulite film, where it’s literally a image by image that it’s drawn together.
The standards in this are just evolving right now and being created. The standards bodies are trying to understand embedding metadata and appropriate ways to do that in creating tools, so this means there aren’t clear answers all the time for some of these things, which is also what I would say is the most exciting part of this profession and why I’ve been drawn to it.
Another success is the integration of digital forensics applications from more of the law enforcement computing fields to archival workflows in recent years. Just this morning, I was taking some old floppy discs, zip discs, for example, and I was able to migrate content off of that and read it, and I will ingest it later to our content management system, which is a great success because before really I would say that, at least in the archival field, these tools weren’t readily available, so a lot of this, what is really foreign digital content, was locked on this folder physical media and there weren’t the protocols in place to safely retrieve and ingest that content.
Henrik de Gyor: Julia, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Julia Kim: My advice to existing DAM professionals is to stay involved in the field because it does change so quickly. Whether this means coursework or conferences or simply networking and finding people in the field that you can talk to and talk these issues out, it’s, I would say, totally necessary involvement to be able to keep up as the field changes. My advice to people aspiring to become DAM professionals is to get a little taste of what it means to become a DAM professional. At least, in my experience, it means a lot of communication as well as technical issues and the technical troubleshooting.
That can mean a lot of meetings and a lot of advocacy across different departments. Trying to explain why things like metadata, for example, matter so much, or trying to explain why automation is important, but I think I’m just basically echoing a lot of what other people say and you got to stay involved. You have to maintain. You cannot just go to work and expect bigger data to work, necessarily. Since a lot of our work is tied up with the way different other technology, different shifts in vendors, different shifts in the consumer market. You have to just stay involved in a way that you, maybe, at least in the archival world, may not need to with analog stuff, or analog collection, necessarily, I think.
Henrik de Gyor: Thanks, Julia.
Julia Kim: Thanks.