Article Summary #9 Archivists vs DAMs

When Archivists and Digital Asset Managers Collide: Tensions and Ways Forward (article – 2016)

This was an interesting study. Anthony Cocciolo conducted his research as a participant observer while consulting in a major art museum, where he was able to observe the relationship between archivists and digital asset managers.

On the surface these two jobs appear to cover much of the same ground. But reality is they serve different but complementary functions and interests. The subjects of the author’s study were often at odds with each other, but it seems to me that they were both needed for different reasons in their organization.

The archivist manages artifacts that are no longer in use. The digital asset manager manages digital objects that still have some monetary value and use. The problems result from the confusion over how these purposes are different.

Most people (me included, until I took an archives class last summer) seem to think that if something is digitized it is preserved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Dr. Riter used the example of finding a 75 year old box of photographs in a hot dusty attic. They are still in good shape. But finding a 75 year old computer in your hot dusty attic… who can access the files in it?

The DAM makes it easy to store, find, and use digital files in an organization. But it is not archiving those files. Unless there is a system in place to regularly check for file degradation and update files to new file formats, and save them in multiple locations, those files are not preserved. The average person does not think about those kinds of things. That is what archivists are for. The DAM is there to manage an asset that still has value.

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