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DAM for Archiving: Back to the Future with DAM

DAM for Archiving: Back to the Future with DAM

Who cares about history?

It’s just a bunch of old stories about boring stuff people did with outdated technology anyway. There’s not much from the past that really matters in today’s world, right?


The Smithsonian alone spent over $800 million USD in 2016 keeping their various locations in operation – all for the purpose of preserving history.


Let’s back up a second: the US Government…the primary underwriter of the Smithsonian Institution, spent eight hundred million dollars creating and maintaining historical records?


It gets more interesting: $1.8 million of that was spent on digitization, and $1.3 million of it was spent on providing web access. The preservation of history is no longer reserved for physical things we keep covered in dust and hidden in boxes.

And it is true across the world that organizations are spending everything they can, often in the millions, to preserve human history. No matter your country or town, you’ll find archives in universities, churches, communities, and more.

History has gone digital, and digital asset management (DAM) is taking us back to the future.

The Power of Digitization

The primary goal of any archive, aside from actual preservation, is to get people using the materials. But not everyone can always travel the distance required to walk through the front door and spend hours poring over historical documents. This fact has driven a shift from paper documents and physical objects to digital photographs, videos and documents, so people across the globe can access historical records from different locations, when they can’t access the actual paper or object.

Enter digitization. Archives are undergoing digitization projects, and as the Smithsonian example shows, this is costing millions.


So, who is creating these digital archives?

First and foremost, on the frontlines of this digitization movement are the archivists. They work to scan, upload and save physical remnants of the past as digital files, with the goal of creating accessible collections that will maximize usability.

How are they doing this?

By and large, many digital archivists are adopting and using digital asset management (DAM) solutions – tools that streamline the process of organizing, storing and retrieving rich media files.

DAM for Archiving

Archivists are increasingly turning to cloud-based DAM solutions because they provide these 3 critical features:

1. The ability to organize very large digital collections

While many archives have been using a series of outdated storage solutions, paired with local hard drives to keep digital records, as more and more people require access to files, it becomes harder to provide easy access. Archivists experience backlogs of image and video requests, and waste hours just searching for materials.

A digital asset management system creates a central location for digital renditions of historical assets and makes it available to users around the world. It's easy-to-use for nearly any user and offers advanced search capabilities that allow all items to be searched for using keywords, dates and more. Read how the Jane Goodall Institute uses MediaValet to manage terabytes of scientific research.

2. Advanced security for sensitive historical records

When assets are sensitive, security is incredibly important. But security is compromised when files are stored on individual hard drives.

A DAM solution provides compliance with common regulations, such as FIPS, and data residency promises when strict regulations need to be met with cloud storage. Digital asset management often protects from human-error, as well, offering data recovery with triple-redundancy and geo-replication.

3. Flexibility during use

On the front lines, what’s really appealing about DAM technology is that archivists can offer their audience of users flexible, permission-based access to historical documentation. Access can be shared through the DAM itself or in an online web gallery where users can browse and download the documents they need (all while keeping an internal record of use).

How the U.S. Naval Institute uses DAM for Archiving


When the U.S. Naval Institute decided to centralize their collection of digital assets from a series of local servers, desktops and hosting companies to a central location, they selected a cloud-based DAM to compile all of their records.

With their DAM solution, The Naval Institute has a secure, user-friendly library from which all archival researchers – academic, public or otherwise – can access the historical records they need. Their Chief Digital Officer called this switch a “sea change” for the organization because the DAM solution has provided a straightforward consolidation of their very large collection of historical assets and made the process to get those assets in the hands of archive users simple.

“The Naval Institute is a fundamental link to so much of our past, and in many ways the hope of our
future as well...if it did not exist, we'd have to invent it.”
- ADM James G. Stavridis, USN Member since 1982

Back to the Future with DAM

Many people like to talk about the future of digital asset management, but if we look at industry trends it’s clear that where we are going, at least in part, is back in time in order to make it back to the future.

DAM solutions that hold historical archives help archivists organize what has become an incredibly large and highly diverse collection of digital assets, and secure those assets against loss and disorganization.

Ready to get digital with your archive? Don't forget to look for these 6 key features in your DAM system.

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