Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to catalog Apples and Oranges?

So you are creating a digital asset system, which will serve a diverse user base. Your institution does not want to build a different management system for each user even if the marketing group may have different needs for digital assets than say the development or curator group. In an educational institution, there may be different subject areas or even in a design studio each individual may have a unique perspective. So, how to build an integrated system that supports all needs?

The key is flexible but clear rules
First, define a core group of fields that are to be filled all assets.  You will want that information which will aid in the management of the assets, such as:
  • Location of digital file
  • Title
  • Usage rights
  • Owner/creator of digital file
You will also want the fields that will aid users in cross collection searching, which must be derived from a study of your own users' needs when searching digital collection. For example in an art museum, all users would probably be interested in creator of original object, location of original object and possibly its provenance.  Thus a search on a particular object might not only turn up an image of that piece, but if doing a cross collection search, also promotional material about it and possibly informal images of it within an exhibit.  These fields would then be part of the core fields, which all groups would complete for their digital assets.

Secondly, define data standards before you start - i.e. decide what field will be used for which particular information.  You can start with data standards developed for each specialty, but chances are you will also need to create a crosswalk for differing data standards.  The important thing is to have each group use the assigned field for all the descriptive metadata, so that your crosswalks are accurate.

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