As a recently established nonprofit foundation, Art Bridges partners with museums and art organizations to make American art available to communities across the United States. When we had the opportunity to interview Colin Carmichael, the Director of Web Operations at Art Bridges, we were thrilled to learn about the role MediaValet has played in enabling them to host events and share information with event managers.
This interview shares Art Bridges’ journey with implementing MediaValet and explains how MediaValet’s various features have helped Art Bridges transform the way they facilitate access to art across the United States.
To start us off, can you please let us know more about the Art Bridges Foundation and yourself?
“I am the Director of Web Operations for Art Bridges, responsible for our web presence and all our related technologies. The Art Bridges Foundation is a nonprofit arts foundation located in Bentonville, Arkansas. Our mission is to expand access to American art across the United States - especially in areas where there’s currently limited or zero access to art. We do this by organizing and traveling exhibitions to our 167 partner museums of all sizes — everybody from the Museum of Modern Art and The Met in New York to small regional museums, like The Museum Broken Arrow in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
We have a collection of almost 100 artworks available for long-term loans to our partners and we provide financial and strategic support for exhibitions, loans, and collection sharing. Our efforts include trying to get artwork out of storage and on the road, so it can be seen by people who normally don't have access to art. Additionally, we support programming, audience engagement and evaluation work around those exhibitions and loans.”
What was your initial goal with implementing a DAM?
“When I first got to Art Bridges, we were a team of six working on a shared drive where all our assets were stored by individuals, usually with only themselves in mind. So, the way we organized assets wasn't quite right, and it was difficult to find and share assets (we were sharing mostly through email). My initial focus was to find a platform that allowed us to effectively store, find and share all our photo, audio, and video assets. MediaValet has been a huge help with that. The platform is extremely efficient, making our assets very easy to find and share.
Our ultimate goal is to have MediaValet act as our hub but have everyone access MediaValet from a connected platform so that no one actually touches the library itself.”
How are you using MediaValet today? Is there anything that you can do now that you couldn't before?
“In our initial rollout, the exhibitions team immediately saw a use case for Branded Portals to make it easier for us to distribute information around our exhibitions to our partners. What was previously sent via email can now be posted into Branded Portals, allowing our users to easily access and download them from anywhere they can get an Internet connection.
We’re also able to password protect assets and restrict downloads, when necessary, as we have some restrictions on artwork. Sometimes artwork is ‘Rights Managed’, so we can't allow them to be downloaded. We are also able to expire each Branded Portal to ensure everything is kept current, clean, and archived, which has been a huge improvement over our previous manual method. Our current MediaValet platform has 3500 files and growing, and we've expanded to a team of 23 now from that initial six in about a year and a half.
Another thing that is made much easier with MediaValet has been file organization. Since we are now able to share files within the system, we can ensure that there is one correct file for each asset, eliminating duplicates and protecting our files in one centralized location. We use MediaValet as our sole source of information and that's helped to keep things clean.
We're also using MediaValet with our project management tool, Wrike. Since the two are connected, it makes it easy for our project managers to find and share assets through Wrike, instead of needing direct access to our MediaValet library.”
Can you share a bit more about your integration with Wrike and how that works?
“MediaValet and Wrike have an out-of-the-box connector that’s simple to set up. When we were looking for a project management system, we were already using MediaValet, so we really liked Wrike’s capabilities and ability to integrate seamlessly with MediaValet. We are able to push and pull files directly to and from MediaValet from within Wrike and use the integration to improve our process for receiving files from our partners.
When our museum partners create assets, we want to make sure that we get a copy of them and that we’re able to archive the assets in MediaValet. To make sure of this, we have created a custom-built form in Wrike and hosted it on our website, so that our partner museums can send files to us through the form. When the form is completed by our partners, we are then tagged with a notification that allows our project managers to go into Wrike to review and approve assets before saving them directly to MediaValet.”
You’ve also implemented an integration with WordPress. Can you tell us more about that?
“MediaValet works with our WordPress CMS by acting as one central location where all necessary assets are stored. For example, when beginning a task, I first pick out all the files that we’re going to use, including any photos and videos, and add them into our MediaValet library. Then, from within WordPress, we pull the assets to the WordPress library. We make sure that our assets are not uploaded directly into WordPress in order to ensure that we have one correct file and that assets are not duplicated.”
How has your DAM facilitated the smooth coordination of art exhibitions throughout the United States?
“When we organize exhibitions, they typically have a lot of supplemental information that travels with them. This could include:
- Educational information,
- Floor plans,
- Installation instructions,
- Audio files,
- Marketing images,
- Art Bridges logos, and/or
- Crediting guidelines.
Since there is a wealth of information that travels with the exhibitions, the process has been made easier by sharing it all through Branded Portals. It simplifies the process and makes it easy for our partners to get online to download what they need and find it again if they need to. That's been a huge success and we've had several partners share how much they like Branded Portals. It has worked really well for us.”
What did onboarding look like at Art Bridges Foundation?
“At the very beginning, I created a road map and tried to take meaningful steps towards the overall goal, knowing that I couldn't do everything on day one. I thought of our exhibitions team as a pilot to let people see what was possible.
I started by pulling everything in from our shared drive into MediaValet and tagging assets with basic information. While I was doing so, I was thinking about actionable ways that I could increase user adoption of the DAM by taking notice of inefficiencies and where people were wasting time.
One of the first things I did when onboarding MediaValet was inform everyone about Branded Portals, explaining that it was a much more efficient way for us to share information, as opposed to what we were doing before. I also created a governance document that outlined the purpose of the DAM, giving general guidance to our staff, answering questions like:
- What's the purpose of the DAM?
- What's the vision for the DAM?
- Who's responsible for what?
I looked at the core focus, who it serves, and explained the type of files we were going to house in the DAM. Our team is pretty small, so there wasn't a lot of difficulty with change management. I did ensure that everyone knew about MediaValet’s unlimited training to ensure everyone knew how to use the platform well.
Can you share how you've set up your taxonomy?
“I've left that up to our individual teams. The exhibitions group, for example, has created a category for each partner. Within that category, they have a repeatable folder structure where they put in all the different information that is required for an exhibition, and it has worked well for them.
Since the exhibitions group has seen such success using Branded Portals, our Collections team, in turn, started creating their own Branded Portals for each of our objects, within the last couple weeks. There is a lot of extended information around our objects and most of it is educational, but there's also all kinds of requirements depending on the age and frailty of our objects that determine how they can travel. Branded Portals have been helpful in keeping everything organized.”
What piece of advice would you give to others going through a similar journey?
“When looking at current processes for sharing things externally, I would note that the ability to do so with Branded Portals is really simple. You can use lightboxes for logged in users, of course, but for external users, Branded Portals are huge.
Also, in terms of looking for opportunities to integrate with other systems, we have Wrike, WordPress, and we're looking at Office 365 as a full rollout shortly and MediaValet has made the integration process seamless.”
What is next for Art Bridges and MediaValet?
“We are getting ready to start a discovery process for our new website. Our current website is well focused on who Art Bridges is and what we do, but we really need to create a website that makes it easier for our partners to work with us and really facilitates that interaction. We’re also creating a new intranet, so through both of those, we’re going to look for ways to integrate MediaValet and make it easy to move our assets from MediaValet into these systems.
Additionally, we're getting ready to fully launch on Office 365, so I think there will be quite a few people that are going to use MediaValet as their document storage. Those are the main things that we have coming up but we're always looking for new ways to use technology to work smarter and MediaValet has been a huge help and a great partner in building that out.”
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