Considering a Museum Digital Storage Approach

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

May 17, 2023

Today’s post will review each digital storage approach and offer guidance on how to determine which approach is the best fit for your museum.

In the lead up to today’s post we’ve reviewed the foundational role digital storage plays in museum collections as well as what requirements to use when evaluating museum digital storage options.

Now, let’s look at: 

Museum Digital File Storage Options

The following are the most commons museum digital storage options:

  • Digital Asset Management System (DAMS); or a CMS that can support similar DAMS functions.
  • Non-DAMS, Software as a Service (SaaS) storage through proprietary platforms such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Local setup with the purchase of external hard-drives (Seagate and Western Digital are great brands) to supplement computer storage and allow greater portability of files.

The Digital Asset Management System (DAMS)

The first, perhaps most obvious consideration for storage is the museum Digital Asset Management System (DAMS). The primary function of a DAMS is to permanently store, preserve, manage, and facilitate access to digital materials. Digital asset management systems can offer broad-level support for digital files regardless of file type or content; as a result, they can be found in virtually every field or industry. As our expectations and use of technological tools have evolved, so too has the DAMS. Realizing that museums were under increasing pressure to make digital surrogates of their objects available online, DAMS began to offer a way to deliver those digital files to the public. This approach is the most cohesive digital storage approach for the majority of museum needs, but it can also be expensive dependent upon the level of storage, security, or preservation functionality required.

Consider: Digital Asset Management Systems are a great option if in-house IT isn’t available and there’s a moderate-sized budget to support the acquisition and annual subscription of a DAMS. If your areas of importance encompass storage, management, preservation, and access, then the DAMS solution is likely the best option for you.

Non-DAMS, Software as a Service (SaaS) Storage

The more we became user-savvy with online file access and management, the more prevalent affordable options became with Google Drive, Dropbox, and other Silicon Valley giants offering similar DAMS options, up to and including facets of digital preservation (such as file versioning history and file control). If museums didn’t already have a DAMS in place, many began to gravitate towards these more generalized (versus museum-specific) platforms. Additionally, the chances of the museum already having Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SharePoint, etc., in place is pretty high. These options range from being free to several thousand depending upon storage, needs, and users.

Consider: If there’s not a budget available for a DAMS nor IT support, but there is interest in digital file management and access, then you may be able to effectively use a SaaS option. This can serve as a great growth option when you’re not quite ready for the power of a DAMS. There’s usually not a whole preservation suite, but there are preservation tools offered at the paid subscription levels for most SaaS options. 

Local to the Museum Storage

Finally, we have local (to the museum) storage devices. If the museum is using a local solution, it will require hardware (a drive or server) and software that can assist the computer in providing better than average file management and back up. An example of this type of software is Symantec. The benefits of this approach are that it favors one-time costs versus annual subscriptions and it can be the only option for museums who are in remote geographic locations where any Cloud-based service is difficult to impossible. The challenges of this approach is that it requires a strongly crafted process for humans to follow or have setup. It also requires additional considerations such as taking care to ensure that there’s an offsite backup of all content that is regularly kept up to date.

Consider: While this option requires IT support in some capacity, it may also be the only option of your museum is located in a remote geographic area or internet is otherwise difficult to use. This option tends to have more 1x costs than annual costs, but it also places the responsibility of setup and maintenance on you. 


As you evaluate each of the three main digital storage options, consider the requirements we outlined last week and note how each approach may or may not fit your needs. These requirements will also help you to evaluate specific products for storage once you’ve decided upon an approach.

Additional Reading

The CMS: What’s Essential, What’s Hackable, and What Does It Cost?

Digital Asset Management Systems Vs Collections Management Systems; Part 1

Does Your Museum Need a DAMS?

Museum Digital Projects: Digital File Storage


Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

If you’d like to learn more, please join us for “Figuring Out Museum Digital Storage”, presented by Rachael Woody June 7, 2023 at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. (Can’t make it? Register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording and slides afterwards). Register now or call 604-278-6717. 

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