Mitch Brodsky discusses Digital Asset Management
Here are the questions asked:
- How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
- How does the Philharmonic use Digital Asset Management?
- What are the biggest challenges and successes you have seen with DAM?
- What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: [0:00] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Mitch Brodsky.
Mitch, how are you?
Mitch Brodsky: [0:09] Great. How are you?
Henrik: [0:11] Good. Mitch, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Mitch: [0:14] I work for the New York Philharmonic. My official title here is Digital
Archives Manager. I was hired to manage the three year project with support
from the Leon Levy Foundation to digitize 1.3 million pages of historical material
here in the archives between the years 1943 to 1970. My role has largely been
project manager for that project. However, I have branched out into other responsibilities,
such as web archiving, electronic records management, and other
sorts of Digital Asset Management issues here within the organization.
Henrik: [0:52] How does the Philharmonic use Digital Asset Management?
Mitch: [0:55] As the result of our digitization project, we have a website that was
launched in February 2011. You can find it at archives.nyphil.org. That is a site
where you can view the 1.3 million pages that we’ve digitized, and that is under
an Alfresco Repository. That’s one element of what we do, is to manage that
large repository and continue to grow it into the future. [1:22] We have printed
music, which includes scores and orchestral parts used and marked by Leonard
Bernstein, Andre Kostelanetz, and other conductors. And, of course, the parts
are marked by the orchestral musicians. We also have every printed program,
which you can flip through online. We are beginning to go back and complete
the digitization of 1842 through yesterday’s program. We do have online right
now everything from 1943 to 1970.
[1:58] In addition, we have all of the photographs from that time period, glass
lantern slides that were used in the first Young People’s Concerts, and business
records, which is actually the bulk of the material. What we call business records
are correspondence, contracts, financial documents, anything related to the
daily running of the Philharmonic. This is really what we, as records managers,
accession every day from the administration of the organization.
[2:33] We have digitized everything in TIFF and JPEG . All the images that you’re
seeing online are JPEGs that are being represented in the Internet archives
book reader, which I believe now is hosted on the Open Library. We adapted
that book reader to pull the JPEGs associated with assets you’re looking for
into it so you can flip through it as though it’s on the reading room table in
front of you.
[2:58] That said, since we have digitized everything from 1943 to 1970, we are
continuing to go back and digitize everything from 1842, now, to 1943. We will
be eventually completing the digitization of all of the historical assets owned by
[3:20] In addition to that, we’re beginning the process of sessioning born digital
material into the archives. The idea is that, at one point in time, we will have a
single repository that contains all of the intellectual assets of the organization
from 1842 through today. We’ll be able to facilitate the discovery of items that
follow certain themes throughout the entire history of the institution.
[3:47] We do utilize assets relating to certain issues through time. This will be
one day a discovery tool to be able to pull things out that relate to overall topics
as we might be dealing with today, but we had also dealt with in the ‘70s or the
‘40s or the ‘20s, and so on.
Henrik: [4:08] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with
Digital Asset Management?
Mitch: [4:12] The biggest challenge is definitely workflow. Now, our case in
Digital Asset Management might be a little bit different from what first would
appear to someone’s mind when hearing that term. [4:27] To me, Digital Asset
Management largely means born digital material that is sessioned into a repository
and managed and then later leveraged however the organization sees fit.
[4:41] What I’ve had most experience with here is digitizing analog material into
digital assets. There’s an enormous amount of challenge from the workflow, because
we have to prepare items for digitization, then it has to be photographed
by our in house photographers. Then every page has to be proofed, which
means compared with the original item.
[5:09] We have this very complex workflow, both in terms of physical logistics,
but also, software, where in between those steps, I have to ingest all these
assets into the system at an enormous rate, create derivative files, and then
put approved items into a queue for release and then finally, release when we
decide to do our point releases.
[5:36] My job as the project manager is to make sure that all the people involved
here have work to do every day and that we’re not backed up or too far
ahead in one part of the process or another. That’s the biggest challenge from
where I sit.
[5:53] The biggest success, well, it’s amazing when you work so hard on a project
like this and the site goes online and it’s living and breathing. The most amazing
thing, to me, is the comments that come in from people, how much they’re
using this now in their research.
[6:15] Only a year, I guess, a year and a half into the project, we are working with
some Columbia sociologists to look at subscription seating through the history
of our ticket sales. They’ve been crunching some of or data and transcribing our
subscriber feed books to determine where people sat in the association to their
status in New York society. It’s a really interesting project that we would never
have dreamed would’ve come out of this, especially so soon and after the initial
release of the digital archives.
[7:03] That’s just one example of many very serious researchers write us and tell
us that they want to use our data for some extraordinary project that will add to
the information that’s out there. I’m just very proud of that.
[7:19] I suppose that’s the greatest success that I see, is just that this thing is out
there and people are utilizing it and they’re responding to it. Every time we’ve
done a release, we’ve seen our numbers almost double in terms of our analytics,
and this has been very telling for us, that people really are interested in this.
[7:42] We are in a really good position with our metadata when we started the
project. Our metadata is housed in two different databases, depending on the
type of material, but these databases have been curated and utilized since the
‘80s. Our metadata is in very good shape.
[8:04] What we do is we have metadata on what we call the asset level. For business
folders, we have metadata on the folding level. For music scores, we have
it on the score level, so each bound volume is described with metadata.
[8:21] We don’t do page level description because we simply would never have
gotten it done. When we started out with the project, our metadata was pretty
clean and so as part of the proofing process, as we were proofing images, the
people who were doing that were also checking to make sure that the metadata
was standardized and cleaning up whatever needed to be cleaned up.
[8:51] Our printed music and our performance history for program metadata
are in an in-house, homebuilt, multivalue database system. Our business records
and metadata is in Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks. We’ve had good success
[9:14] The way the process works is, when we photograph the analog material,
and I ingest those JPEGS into our Alfresco repository. I also do an export of the
metadata from our legacy systems and import those as well. Everything is tied
by ID. If we do have to revise metadata, we do it in our in-house databases and
then re-import again.
[9:44] One day, we will be doing direct metadata entry in the Alfresco interface,
although we just haven’t started that yet. It’s important to note that these are
not archival databases. The databases that we use, that feed into our digital
archives, are used really by the entire organization for different purposes. For
those people who are listening to this as archivists, we don’t distinguish between
what is our archival and what is current.
[10:15] I think that goes to the same point of, the purpose of this project, to
make one large repository, one continuum of information of history of the
Philharmonic. The information that was being created by the institution in 1842
is just as relevant and just as important as the documents that are being created
right now by our executive director or managers of various sorts.
Henrik: [10:45] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Mitch: [10:49] I would say learn as much as you can about different systems,
different types of repositories and different program languages. I’m not a “developer.”
That’s not my training background. I have a degree in library science,
that I also have a music degree. [11:13] I was also a geek. I loved tinkering with
computers for my whole life. In the early ‘90s when HTML started to become
a thing and the web started to happen, I had a big book of…the HTML Bible. I
went front to back and I learned it. I had no idea, then, that that would form the
foundation for my career in the future. Now, it doesn’t stop. I go home and I
because it just never stops, the amount that you can learn.
[11:53] The benefit of being a professional, especially a technology-oriented
professional in today’s world is that there’s so much open source software and
there’s so much community around learning these things. There are plenty of
free or very inexpensive ways, if you’re willing to put the time in, to keep up with
what’s going on out there.
[12:16] I love Codecademy. It’s not huge yet, but the examples in the tutorials
that I have on there have really helped refresh some things for me and in other
cases, learn from scratch. I would definitely recommend it. I try to take my own
advice, in that case, and do it myself.
[12:36] It’s so easy. For instance, Alfresco is a great example. You can download
for free, community version of Alfresco and learn how it works and what are the
pros and cons of it. You can do that with any number of repository systems.
[12:53] Knowing about what’s out there is really important because when an
option comes up in your job, you have to make a decision between one system
or technique or another system or technique. To know all the options that are
out there and why one would choose one over the other is just really important.
Henrik: [13:12] Very true. That sounds like a great example of how you made a
personal commitment to invest in yourself in learning those skills.
Mitch: [13:20] Absolutely. There’s no reason not to.
Henrik: [13:22] Excellent. Well, thanks, Mitch.
Mitch: [13:25] You’re welcome.
Henrik: [13:26] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics,
log onto AnotherDAMblog.com. Another DAM Podcast is available in
Audioboom and iTunes. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email
me at AnotherDAMblog@gmail.com.Thanks again.
- Another DAM podcast interview with Norman Paskin (anotherdampodcast.com)
- Another DAM podcast interview with Steven J. Miller (anotherdampodcast.com)
Need Digital Asset Management advice and assistance?