How we preserve history has changed. It no longer means primarily dealing with physical copies that we keep hidden away, boxed up, and covered in dust. Instead, it means truly securing records by converting them to digital formats and investing in digital archives. That’s the future (and if we’re being honest, present) of archiving and preservation.
Industries across the globe are already spending big money on digitizing their archives and preserving their histories. In fact, back in 2016, The Smithsonian museum spent $800 million USD keeping their various locations in operation--and $1.8 million of that was solely spent on digitizing their records. Fast forward to spring of 2021, when The Louvre announced: "For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, even long-term, or in storage." An estimated 482,000 works were digitized—about three-quarters of the museum’s collection.
These many examples make one thing clear — digitization is the future of archiving. In this post, we discuss exactly how the digitization of archives helps to preserve history, and why digital asset management is at the heart of these kinds of projects.
The Power of Digitization
The primary goal of any archive, aside from actual preservation, is to get people using the materials. Even before the pandemic, not everyone could physically make the journeys needed to access certain museums, libraries, or educational institutions and spend hours poring over historical documents. This influenced the big shift from paper documents and physical objects to digital photographs, videos, and documents—allowing people across the globe to access these assets from web-based systems. Archivists work to scan, upload and save physical remnants of the past as digital files, with the goal of creating accessible collections that will maximize their usability. Additionally, digitization ensures the preservation of achieves even if something were to happen to the original copy. This means that historical material can be captured and experienced in the best state possible and remain intact without having to worry about its protection.
“The current momentum for building large electronic archives that are accessible to a broad, international user-base, speaks to a collective desire not just from publishers and institutions, but also from individual librarians to preserve historical material for generations to come.”
The Business Case for Digital Archiving
You don’t need to be The Smithsonian or The Louvre to invest in digital archives. In fact, recent data is showing that digital archiving reduces companies’ costs by more than 20%. So, there’s a strong business case for investing in the digitization of corporate archives, even for small-to-medium-sized businesses. According to the CEO of EAD Digital, a leading European digital transformation company, archiving impacts company efficiencies in three big ways:
- “Company workflows,
- allocated human resources, and
- costs related to physical archive storage spaces.”
Digitization has always been important to allow remote access to company archives. Once professional teams became increasingly geo-dispersed and travel was almost non-existent, it became even more important to provide access to these kinds of records for people to be able to do their jobs or research remotely.
The digitization of company archives, with the right systems in place, helps business organizations with archive security, workflow, accessibility, and overhead costs.
Digital Asset Management for Archiving
The shift to digital archiving has made it inevitable—these historic assets need a new, digital home. Searching for the right solution can be challenging when considering the sensitivity and importance of historical archives, but many organizations have found cloud-based digital asset management (DAM) systems to be the perfect solution.
A digital asset management system (DAM) provides one, central location for all digital renditions of historical assets and helps companies to manage, organize, share and distribute their archived content whenever and wherever they need. By providing self-serve access to assets with a DAM, organizations are able to find the assets they need more quickly and efficiently than ever before while maintaining the security of their possessions.
Many organizations choose a DAM to host their historical archives because it offers these 3 critical features:
- Enhanced search capabilities for better discoverability,
- Flexible access permissions for a wide range of users, and
- Advanced security for sensitive historical records.
Let’s dive into each feature in more detail below.
1. Enhanced Search Capabilities
As libraries acquire more and more material for their large digital collections, it becomes more difficult for them to stay organized. A DAM offers sophisticated search capabilities that allow users to search for assets using keywords, dates, and more. Even if there are millions of assets to sift through, finding what you’re looking for is as simple as typing in a keyword and using filters to narrow down the search. These qualities of a DAM not only allow industries to feel confident in the organization of their digital archives, but they also ensure a consistent experience for users searching for what they need.
2. Flexible Access Permissions
The flexible nature of a cloud-based DAM ensures that digital archives can be accessed from anywhere in the world, at any time — but not everyone should have the same permission levels. With a DAM, organizations are able to create an unlimited number of user groups and customize their permissions and access levels, including their ability to access, share and download specific sets of assets. This ensures that the DAM owner has control over who can view or download what while keeping an internal record of when assets were accessed and by whom. Additionally, assets can be securely shared with non-users in an online web gallery or branded portal, allowing those outside the organizations to browse and download the files they need.
3. Advanced Security
When it comes to your entire company history, the safety and security of the archives is top priority. This means that when archives are digitized and stored in a new digital location, archivists must be certain they are protected with the same level of security (or more) as when they only had a physical location—DAM systems do just that.
In addition to extensive permission capabilities to help ensure that assets are only used by the right people at the right time, a DAM solution provides compliance with common regulations that sensitive industries and environments require. Digital asset management also offers data recovery with triple-redundancy and geo-replication, protecting from both human error and natural disaster. This means both a primary and secondary datacenter will host three copies of your data – so there will always be 6 copies across two separate locations, ensuring that there is always a back-up to your back-up.
Customer Story: How the U.S. Naval Institute uses DAM for Archiving
In 2016, USNI began a project to digitize its archive of 200,000 (and growing) assets. A critical component of the project was finding a tailored DAM solution that would make these assets more secure and discoverable.
With their DAM system, USNI has organized their massive, specialized collection of assets using custom attributes and categories, allowing for easy searchability and access. The flexibility of their DAM has allowed them to set up customized access to a secure, user-friendly asset library.
“With MediaValet, the ability to create custom attributes and categories has been a huge win for us at USNI since our collection is so specialized.”
Emily Hegranes, Digital Archivist at US Naval Institute
Learn more about USNI’s experience with a DAM here.
Preserve Your History with a DAM
We are in the middle of a massive, global digital transformation. The digitization of archives and historical records are a huge part of this evolution. The methods of the past—relying on a combination of physical storage and individual hard drives—are no longer sustainable.
Archivists and organizations are citing a DAM as the ideal solution to manage their massive collections of digitized records, provide high levels of security and compliance, and, very importantly, allow their collections to be easily accessible by the right people—all over the world. Ready to get digital with your archive? Don't forget to look for these 6 key features in your DAM system.
This blog post was originally posted in October 2016 and has been updated.
MediaValet is a leader in cloud-based digital asset management that helps organizations manage, organize and share their digital assets, improving productivity and increasing ROI. See MediaValet in action today.