Managing content in a rich media world

For years, directors at the faced a daunting problem that threatened to stifle the growth of the century-old organization. The prolific use of computer-generated content was requiring them to store ever more videos, audio clips, and digital images relating to the museum's vast collection of works to assist in research, accounting, outreach, and other day-to-day operations.

As the number of digital assets grew, they were scattered across a handful of machines that were maintained by different departments.

Meanwhile, IT workers were still relying on DVDs to back up all the various content, thereby relegating it to a nonsearchable format. Employees who wanted to track audio narratives, video documentaries, or digital images involving a particular collection frequently had to hold lengthy meetings just to get a thorough tally. "Everybody in the museum sort of worked in little silos," says Homer Gutierrez, the foundation's director of IT. "Whenever they wanted to find something, it was a nightmare."

So three years ago managers at the museum -- which houses rare works by Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse among its 26,000-strong collection -- embarked on an ambitious plan to digitally reproduce nearly all its works in the form of high-resolution images and place those images where anyone with a Web browser and the proper credentials could quickly find, edit, and access them. To bring order and accessibility to the vast library of rich media, IT sat down with librarians, marketing personnel, and other business stakeholders to lay the groundwork for creating a single repository where multimedia content could be indexed, stored, and retrieved more efficiently.

Museum directors now employ a software solution by Stellent (which Oracle recently acquired) that allows employees to enter and index newly created high-resolution images, for example, as soon as they become available. So far, the museum has checked in only a fraction of its digital images, but already Gutierrez is seeing a benefit.

"It has broken down a lot of barriers as far as information was concerned within the organization," Gutierrez says. "The ultimate goal for us is to share our media with other museums and have a standard for all the museums."