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Imperial War Museum Planes

Axiell DAMS at the Imperial War Museums

The Challenge

Imperial War Museums (IWM) has over 33 million unique items in its collection, with over 23,000 hours of film material and hundreds of thousands of photographs, and this is increasing daily with the acquisition of born digital assets and the continuation of the digitisation of collections; for example, the videotape scanning project will generate 900TB of data over four years.

The key reasons for needing a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) are:

  • Preservation of digital assets.
  • Improved access to those assets for everyone, both staff and public.
  • To support the commercial side of the museums, e.g. as assets are used in film, TV or licenced to other publishers.
  • Demonstrating that IWM meets ISO 16363 (Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories – sets out comprehensive metrics for what an archive must do, based on OAIS).

IWM wanted a DAMS that would support not just digital access and commercial needs but one that was responsive to the museum’s preservation responsibilities and able to cope with the demands of a large and growing collection in an increasingly digital world. That meant dealing with a high throughput of digital assets, the ability to transcode multiple media formats, a simple user experience, and the flexibility and scalability to adapt to any future requirements (for example, when managing the ingest and storage of video, a change from the 2k to 4k standard results in the quadrupling of the file size).

I really enjoy working with Axiell. There’s a fantastic team of developers. They’ve really worked hard to understand our systems and our needs; I feel like we have a really good relationship with them.

Rosie Forrest Collections Systems Manager, IWM

The Solution and Process

IWM uses Axiell DAMS to manage digital assets, and this links directly with the organisation’s collections management system, Adlib. Digital assets are ingested using machine processes, which allows the use of industry standard unique material identifiers (UMIDs) and secure read-only storage. Metadata extraction and data rules at ingest streamline the technical management of assets by providing key data about their usability; and regular expression validation of file names against Adlib object catalogue numbers ensures that the assets are instantly associated with the rich contextual and management data already input by curatorial and collections teams.

Man Using Multiple Screens

The seamless integration means that IWM staff are able to access ingested digital assets associated with an item in their collection either by searching within Adlib or from any platform associated with an Adlib API, for example the Collections Online website. It’s this that makes digital assets accessible globally and provides the foundation for IWM to create more engaging digital experiences.

Working with such large collections, the batch import of assets has dramatically improved the user experience and the speed at which users can work:

One of the things we’ve immediately noticed with our new DAMS is the speed at which we are able to work with it. For example, we’ve been able to process multiple terabytes of film material over the last month alone. To put that into context, in the previous months we were averaging about 0.3 terabytes of film material. That’s really exciting for us.

Rosie Forrest Collections Systems Manager, IWM

The modularity of Axiell’s DAMS for IWM has meant that it’s incredibly scalable; as IWM looks to expand the system in line with changes in technology standards, the number of assets, or the organisation’s digital strategy, the system can be adapted. Having the flexibility to meet needs now and in the future goes a long way to ensuring the indefinite preservation of IWM’s digital assets and maintaining the integrity of the digital collection.

To ensure that the project ran smoothly IWM had a dedicated project team which coordinated timing, budget, infrastructure, technical specification, configuration and testing, ultimately ensuring that the system met the needs of all of its users, whilst supporting the organisation’s broader digital strategy.

By working closely together on this project from its planning through to implementation, the teams from IWM and Axiell were able to deliver a DAMS that met the complex needs of a large organisation, and delivered a system that was user friendly and robust.

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