Easy and efficient handling of digital assets such as images and documents has always been an important capability of IrisBG. Electronic documents are now replacing printed documents at many institutions and the availability of quality digital cameras and improved smartphone cameras has resulted in an explosive growth in the number of photos taken. The growth in the volume of digital assets means that many institutions now have to consider more carefully how they manage this information. In this article, I will discuss how IrisBG can help your institution to manage your digital assets. I will first outline how digital assets are managed within IrisBG and then look at how IrisBG can be integrated on different levels with basic photo sharing websites and advanced Digital Asset Management Systems.
What is a Digital Asset?
The term “digital asset” refers to a digital file that comes with the right to use. A digital asset file can be a document, an image, an audio recording, a video, etc.
The term “digital asset management system (DAMS)” typically represents a combination of software, hardware and services used to manage, store, ingest, organise and retrieve digital assets.
Managing Digital Assets in IrisBG
With IrisBG, users can record images and documents related to the plant collection.
Images can be related to an accession, accession item or a taxon. In addition, you may also add images to garden assets and tours. Images are stored on the IrisBG database alongside the plant records and can automatically be downscaled to conserve disk space or stored in their original resolution. Basic information such as image date, provider and origin can be recorded.
Digital documents can be attached to permits and library references. As with images, the documents are stored directly on the plant collection database, which makes retrieval and management very straightforward.
For many gardens, these capabilities are sufficient. However, if your institution has a large number of documents or images for other purposes than documenting the plant collection, you may have the need for a structured method of managing these assets and a Digital Asset Management System may be what you are looking for.
Using IrisBG together with a Digital Asset Management System
If you already have or are considering adopting a DAMS, you will also need to decide if you will record plant collection images in your DAMS. If the plant collection images are primarily used by staff already using IrisBG, the benefits of using a DAMS for these images may be less obvious.
DAMS integration with IrisBG Desktop
DAMS integration with IrisBG Desktop can be achieved using the following techniques.
- Basic URL integration.
The full image URL is entered in the images screen. A low-resolution copy of the image is then loaded automatically into IrisBG with a URL link to access the original image. This approach is simple, but flexible and can be used with a wide range of solutions, including several free and low cost online images libraries.
A similar approach is available for documents. When recording a library reference or permit, you can either upload the document or you can record a URL that links to the document. However, in this case, no copy of the document will be stored in the IrisBG database.
- Configured URL integration.
A URL for the image library is entered in the Management/Collections screen. Users can add images in IrisBG by referring to the image identifier. With this approach, it is much easier to relocate the entire library if that is needed, as only the image ID is stored as a reference for the individual image. Users can access the original image by clicking the URL field in the image screen. With this type of integration, it is also easier to import image data and to integrate your Garden Explorer website with the DAMS.
- One-Way DAMS synchronization.
By setting up a configured ULR integration, you can automate the integration by using the IrisBG data import engine together with IrisBG Batch Jobs. New images can be imported automatically from the DAMS database into IrisBG at regular intervals. The data import engine will require that you link each DAMS image to the correct accession. See a data import example below.
- Two-Way DAMS synchronization.
In addition to recording the image in the DAMS, you may also want to record relevant metadata about the image. For plant records, most of the relevant metadata, such as plant name, location in the garden and image ranking are already in place in IrisBG. In addition, this information is also likely to change in the future. To avoid data duplication, you can pull data from IrisBG at regular intervals to update the relevant metadata in the DAMS.
Data Import Example
DAMS integration with IrisBG Garden Explorer
When adding DAMS images to IrisBG, a low-resolution image is stored in the plant collection database. A low-resolution web optimized copy of the image is also used when data is published to the Garden Explorer. This provides a fast and enjoyable user experience and will in many cases be sufficient. However, if you would like your visitors to access a high-resolution copy of the image, the Garden Explorer website can be configured to load a high-resolution version of the image from your DAMS when the user clicks the image on the website.
Example 1 – Basic integration with a Photo Sharing Website
There is a wide range of free and low cost photo sharing websites to choose from. In this example, I have used Imgur.com, but I am sure many other options would work equally well. After having recorded the image on your photo sharing website, navigate to the correct accession. From the Image tab:
- Click the blue [+] button “Add Web Image”.
- Use the “Direct link” URL and paste this directly in the “Add Web Image” dialog.
- Click ok.
A low-resolution copy of the image is then stored in IrisBG for easy retrieval. The original link is available in the Web image field.
Example 2 – Configured integration with a DAMS
In this example, we have used a DAMS from Assetbank (www.assetbank.co.uk). As with photo sharing websites, you will also find that there are many vendors to choose from, some of which may work equally well or better than the example we have shown below.
Assetbank supports a feature called Direct Link which makes it possible to access individual images using a fixed URL. By enabling this feature, we can record the URL in our Management Collection Screen, using the Image Lib. URL Field.
For a comprehensive list of other DAMS options, you may look at some links listed at the bottom of this page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_asset_management.
Example 3 – IrisBG and the Smithsonian Digital Asset Management System
The Smithsonian Institution (SI) has established a state of the art Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) to handle their digital media. SI manages nearly 10 million records of museum objects, which also includes 1.6 million media files. The plant collections at the Smithsonian Gardens are part of this archive and it is very important for the institution that all media files from all their collections are managed consistently and responsibly using their Digital Asset Management System.
By using the IrisBG Batch Jobs software, SI automatically pulls image metadata from the SI DAMS and pushes it directly into IrisBG at regular intervals. IrisBG generates a low-resolution copy of the image that is stored directly in the plant collection database with a link to the full resolution image available in the SI DAMS. The staff at Smithsonian Garden rank the images in IrisBG and decide if they should be made available to the public or not. Information about ranking and other collection specific metadata, such as taxonomy and garden location are then extracted from IrisBG and fed back to SI DAMS. This information will accompany the image listed at the Smithsonian Collection Search Centre (http://collections.si.edu/search/). A collection specific website for garden visitors, Smithsonian Garden Explorer, will be made available with more plant collection specific information. The Smithsonian Garden Explorer website will display web-optimized photos alongside plant collection data. The visitor will have the option to load a high-resolution image that is streamed directly from the Smithsonian media servers.
The integration between IrisBG and the Smithsonian Digital Asset Management System is a demonstration of the building blocks available to IrisBG users and how IrisBG can integrate with other IT systems to share plant collection data reliably and efficiently.