Long-term Care of Digital Images

Do you really need a Digital Asset Management Plan?

The simple answer: Yes you do! Even the lowly cell-phone-camera shutterbugs need to sort and save their ‘FAVs’ once in awhile. Actually, the complexity of the plan depends entirely on the purpose of the digital image collection. As the risk increases, the complexity of planning and documentation also increases.

If you are a photographer or visual artist selling your work, or even simply documenting your progress over the years, then a relatively simple plan will work, so long as it’s attended to at regular intervals, and consistently refined as your collection increases in value. Ken W. Watson has an excellent primer on the development of a workflow for storing and archiving digital photos.

If you are a professional conservator, entrusted with the digital preservation of a physical collection, from within a museum, or heritage association, the stakes are a little higher. In this case, the plan must meet very high standards, and include several important stages, including: developing and documenting procedures for capturing, cataloguing, maintaining copyrights, storing, retrieving and distributing the artifacts in digital format — plus backup and recovery strategies, not to mention a procedure for upgrading digital storage and formats as they evolve over time. D.A.M. That’s a huge task.

If you are currently planning, or even just considering a major online archive, CCO Commons is a great place to tap into a growing body of new standards in digital preservation of cultural objects. The complete publication will become available as an open access online resource in July 2011.

We all need to get the discussion going, to ensure the long-term safety and preservation of cultural data, be it text or pixels. So — what are your current procedures? Please leave a reply!