Diving back into our follow up on “Ask Me Anything: Museum Digital Projects” webinar, this post covers questions we received subsequently in order to provide additional insight, strategies, and resources.
We received several excellent questions after the deadline, and they are included in this series. Our thanks to everyone who sent in questions! Your participation helps us design future content that is of the most use to you, our colleagues.
Today’s post will focus on questions related to digital file storage—an element often overlooked, yet so critical to digital project work.
Q. What infrastructure is needed for storing/hosting the digital content created from a digital project?
The core functions required here are:
- The ability to store (save) digital files upon their creation;
- The ability to organize those files; and
- The ability to access those files through structure navigation or search.
These core functions can take place locally on a computer, a local but external device, and/or with a cloud (SaaS) platform connected. However, for museum collections we have a few more core function requirements:
- The ability to store a massive amount of files (with corresponding large files sizes);
- The ability to preserve files and maintain file integrity; and
- The ability to attach, upload, or otherwise connect those files to complementary applications (like a CMS).
Sometimes the digital infrastructure required can be found in a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) or Collections Management System (CMS). More often there’s an on-premise approach for at least the initial gathering of files, or to serve as a secondary (and sometimes more convenient to access) storage location.
The storage infrastructure and mechanisms you use will depend on what other systems you have in place and how it’s required to connect with your digital project platform. Understanding those needs first and then working backwards will help you determine if a local server and/or SaaS platform will work, if your CMS and/or DAMS can do the lifting, or if you need a hybrid approach.
Digital files preservation is another important aspect to consider when discussing digital storage options. You can read more about this subject by reading Museum Digital File Preservation: File Access and Museum Digital File Preservation: File Integrity, available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.
Q. We have old computers and limited storage. Do you have any budget-friendly recommendations for how/where we can store digital files?
Yes. There are some great interim options to use if you don’t have your digital infrastructure plan in place just yet. I recommend:
- Checking existing systems already available at your organization (e.g. Gdrive, Dropbox, Box, etc.).
- Purchasing external hard-drives (Seagate and Western Digital are great brands) to supplement computer storage and allow greater portability of files.
Tip: When possible, build the operating budget to account for digital asset growth and technology obsolescence.
Digital files storage is an important piece of our museum digital project work as it holds a vast amount of our digitization and other digital project outputs. Investing in a reliable storage infrastructure and one that supports further digital project work is critical. Once a basic plan is in place, make sure to consider workflows, access, and digital preservation measures. The good news is, once you have this piece set you should (hopefully) not have to think about it again for at least 3-5 years.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Rachael Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. She has authored several titles published by Lucidea Press, including her newest: Museum Digital Projects and You. Where to Begin? Rachael is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter.
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