Preserving Digital Assets: A Gap in the DAM Marketplace

17 August 2023

Desk with large Apple computer monitor displaying "Do More"
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Cultural heritage organizations increasingly seek out a digital asset management system (DAM) that integrates robust digital preservation capabilities for preserving digital assets. They often recognize the importance of investing in digital preservation but struggle with the challenge of maintaining separate DAM and digital preservation systems due to limited resources.

While DAM systems typically prioritize security, permissions, and utilize cloud storage—all found in digital preservation systems as well—they still lack the comprehensive functionality that cultural heritage organizations and others consistently seek to help with preserving digital assets.

Despite the maturity of the DAM market, there remains a persistent gap between the preservation functionality that cultural heritage organizations desire and the systems currently available. 

At AVP, we have witnessed this shift in what organizations are seeking first-hand through our work assisting organizations in finding the perfect technology solutions to meet their unique requirements, from digital asset management and media asset management (MAM) to digital preservation systems and records management systems. 

In light of this issue, I would like to delve into the reasons behind this disparity and share AVP’s recommendations on how organizations can navigate the technical landscape for preserving digital assets effectively. Let’s explore the evolving needs of organizations and uncover strategies for achieving their goals within the realm of digital asset management and digital preservation.

Why can’t Digital Asset Management just “do Digital Preservation”?

It is crucial to grasp the fundamental differences between these two types of systems and their respective functionalities.

According to IBM, a DAM is “a comprehensive solution that streamlines the storage, organization, management, retrieval, and distribution of an organization’s digital assets.”

The lending library

To paint a visual picture, envision a DAM as a lending library.

Hand reaching for a book on a shelf
Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Just like books neatly arranged on shelves, digital assets are meticulously organized, described, and managed within the DAM. Library users can navigate the catalog using various criteria such as subject, author, or date to locate specific assets, just as they can in the DAM. And, similar to needing a library card to borrow books, access to the DAM requires registered users to have appropriate permissions to access and utilize the digital assets.

Essentially, a well-managed DAM ensures that your digital assets are securely stored, easily searchable, and readily accessible. It functions as a virtual library, providing efficient organization and control over your organization’s valuable digital resources. 

The offsite storage

Building upon the library analogy, let’s delve into the unique characteristics of a digital preservation system.

Large book warehouse
Princeton University Library offsite storage facility

Imagine the library books that are not frequently accessed. Instead of occupying valuable space on the main shelves, they are often relocated to a secure, climate-controlled warehouse. These books are packed in containers on tall shelving units, accessible to only a select few individuals. Browsing becomes nearly impossible, searching becomes challenging, and obtaining one of these books typically requires assistance from a librarian.

In the digital realm, a digital preservation system serves as the digital counterpart to this offsite storage. It replaces physical locked warehouses with secure user permissions, ensures file verification and fixity testing to maintain data integrity, employs packaging mechanisms called “bags,” and utilizes cold data storage for long-term preservation.

Room with computer servers
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

While a digital preservation system focuses primarily on safeguarding and preserving digital assets, it also prioritizes security and protection over immediate accessibility.

Same-same but different?

From these descriptions, it is evident that the fundamental purposes of DAM and digital preservation systems are significantly different, although there are areas of overlap. For instance, both the library and warehouse prioritize secure storage of their respective materials. (Ever walked out of a library without checking out your book only to set the alarm off?) 

Likewise, both DAM and digital preservation systems maintain strong user permissions to ensure security. Similarly, while libraries may employ climate control measures — albeit less stringent than those governing the warehouse’s temperature and humidity levels — some DAMs may also implement “lightweight” functionality for preserving digital assets, such as fixity testing upon upload.

This distinction emphasizes the intrinsically divergent purposes of DAM and digital preservation system. 

DAMs primarily excel in efficient asset management and user accessibility, allowing organizations to easily organize, retrieve, and distribute their digital assets. On the other hand, digital preservation system places paramount importance on long-term preservation and data integrity, safeguarding valuable assets for future generations. 

How can I use a DAM system for preserving digital assets today?

Increasingly, DAM vendors are adding digital preservation functionality to their systems. At a minimum, most DAM systems perform:

  • Checksum hash values (e.g., MD5) creation on ingest
  • Event logging (whenever an action is taken on a file)

Some DAM systems can also do the following:

  • Virus checking on ingest
  • Hybrid (tiered) storage (a combination of hot and cold storage or online, nearline, and offline storage)

Only a very small number of DAM systems may also:

  • Make checksum values visible to users
  • Test existing checksum values on ingest
  • Enable manual and/or regular fixity testing
  • Run reports on or export event logs

And at the time of writing, no DAM performs automated obsolescence monitoring of file formats (to our knowledge).

With this in mind, the question to consider is: what’s good enough when it comes to digital preservation functionality in DAMS?

“Good enough” digital preservation

The concept of “Good enough” digital preservation has been circulating since at least 2014, thanks to groups like Digital POWRR. Essentially, it recognizes that not everyone can achieve or maintain the highest levels of digital preservation, such those defined by level four of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation or full conformance with ISO 16363 (Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories), for all digital assets (for all eternity).

For many, these guidelines can feel overwhelming and unattainable. When organizations search for a DAM solution, they often have an expectation that it will solve all digital preservation planning challenges and result in a perfect A+ in digital preservation. However, as we have come to realize, this expectation is not in line with reality.

So, what should you do?

Let’s dive into some ideas on how we can tackle these issues.

Understand the difference between DAM system and Digital Preservation system functionality

First and foremost, organizations should focus on developing a clear understanding of the distinctions between a DAM and a digital preservation system. This knowledge forms the foundation for informed decision-making and empowers organizations to choose the right path.

Clarify your appetite for risk

Person walking on tightrope across cliff
Photo by Loic Leray on Unsplash

Next, organizations need to assess their risk comfort levels. What functionalities are essential for their peace of mind? Are there specific data management or digital preservation regulations they must comply with? Can a DAM system meet these requirements effectively? If not, organizations must determine the functionalities that take precedence and decide whether a DAM or digital preservation system is more suitable for their needs.

DAM vendors play a crucial role in this process. It is essential for them to familiarize themselves with basic digital preservation software functionality. This understanding enables them to respond effectively to client requirements and deliver solutions that align with their specific needs.

Request standards compliance

DAM vendors should actively consider aligning with some guidelines from the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, for example. By doing so, vendors not only benefit clients with a need for digital preservation but also contribute to the long-term accessibility of assets within the DAM for all users. This alignment has the potential to promote industry-wide best practices and ensures the preservation and availability of digital assets beyond individual client needs.

However, it is essential to recognize that not all DAM systems need to encompass complete digital preservation functionality.

 The reality is, some organizations heavily invested in digital preservation may have a particularly low risk tolerance for loss and, despite DAM’s other capabilities, may choose not to depend on it alone to achieve their preservation objectives.

Choosing a solution for preserving digital assets

In light of these considerations, it is crucial for organizations to engage in internal discussions to determine their specific needs and priorities. These conversations should address risk levels and the functionalities that are essential for their peace of mind and compliance with their data management requirements. 

By having these dialogues, organizations can collectively define an acceptable level of preservation within the realm of DAM. Although reaching a consensus may present challenges, the goal is to find a comfortable middle ground that satisfies the needs of everyone in the organization. This process not only addresses their requirements effectively but also has the potential to drive innovation within the DAM industry as a whole.

Neon sign that reads "do something great"
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

If you are considering acquiring a DAM in the near future and have digital preservation requirements, we are excited to discuss the possibilities with you. AVP is here to assist you in exploring your options and finding the ideal system for your organization. We eagerly await the opportunity to assist you on this journey.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Digital Asset Management System 

5 July 2023

As organizations grow and their workflows evolve, so does their need for the right technology. But identifying which tools will meet your needs now — and as your business scales — can be a major undertaking. 

Investing in a digital asset management (DAM) solution is no different. While DAM systems are designed to simplify how digital content is organized and managed, selecting the right solution can actually be really complicated. After all, there are dozens of vendors to choose from, all with a unique combination of functionality, features, and services. On the flip side, being able to identify and prioritize your business requirements requires a lot of due diligence.

And unfortunately, if you select a solution that doesn’t meet your needs there are a range of significant consequences. Let’s take a look at the risks entailed in making the wrong- DAM software investment — and how to avoid them.

The Risks of Getting it Wrong

Unwanted Expenses

By the time you realize that you’ve selected a a digital asset management solution or system that won’t support your use cases as expected, you will likely be deep into software implementation. This includes configuration, content migration, piloting, and possibly even the beginning of system launch. Many stakeholders will have committed significant time to this initiative.

At this point, it is pretty hard to cut your losses and change course. Not only will there be the hard costs of ending the current contract — but there will be further hefty staffing expenses. Scrapping plan A means starting from scratch with another procurement process and then spending months configuring, migrating, and preparing for roll out — a second time. We all know that time means money, and this redundant work will be costly.

It is not easy to let go of those sunk costs, so most likely, you will continue to persevere. You may not be able to tell the difference between poor implementation, and the wrong system. Either way the challenges will continue to grow in significance and complexity.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Broken Trust

While the technical part of a software launch can be complicated, with numerous timelines and milestones, getting people to embrace the new system can be even more challenging. After all, change is hard — even when it’s for the better. And when the solution doesn’t meet expectations, you risk damaging the trust between you and your stakeholders. 

And once this trust is broken, it is difficult to repair. Stakeholders that feel burned or frustrated may not be interested in engaging in the process again, which can have a chilling effect on system adoption and even create a self-fulfilling prophecy that the project is doomed to failure. 

Lost Opportunity

In addition to unwanted staffing expenses and damaged trust, investing in the wrong digital asset management system will delay your time to value. In other words, it extends the time needed to realize all of the gains that you were hoping for when you invested in a digital asset management system.

While delays and pivots play out, all of the original challenges that were drivers for making this technology investment continue to grow, such as workflow efficiencies, poor user experience, brand inconsistencies, and general content chaos. For organizations that manage archival assets, every month can bring the permanent loss of materials due to decay or obsolescence.

Not choosing the right DAM system means that these challenges continue to balloon — greatly prolonging the time until you realize DAM ROI.

Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

Project Viability

A final risk inherent in choosing the wrong digital asset management system is the possibility that it sinks the project entirely. The decision to implement a new DAM system is often part of a larger technology strategy endorsed by executive leadership. And if the initial selection is a failure, it can create waves that cast doubt on the value of the investment. 

This loss of confidence can threaten the existence of the entire DAM project — putting careers at risk and leaving a legacy that is difficult to overcome.

How to Choose the Right Digital Asset Management System, the First Time

Clearly, with any major technology investment the stakes are high. And righting the ship after a wrong decision entails considerable work and expense.

That’s why many organizations wondering how to choose a digital asset management system turn to a DAM consultant to guide their selection process. Including a consultant on your team can add clarity and efficiency at every stage of the process and sets the project up for success: from identifying specification requirements and drafting a request for proposal (RFP) all the way through vendor evaluation. 

In addition to avoiding the risks outlined above, the benefits of working with a top digital asset management systems consultant include:

  • Confidence that you’ve uncovered, defined, and prioritized all of your content workflow and business needs
  • The ability to articulate these needs to avoid disconnects or miscommunications with your vendor, down the road
  • Access to a data-driven, systematic approach that allows for informed and clear decisions, based on the right criteria

In many ways, working with a digital asset management consultant is like an insurance policy against going down the wrong path — allowing you to minimize your risk and maximize your reward. 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

AVP’s Approach to DAM Selection

At AVP, we offer DAM selection services that can be tailored to the needs of every organization. DAM is anything but a one-size-fits all investment, and our people-first approach allows us to provide the right level of support, every time. 

AVP Select services are organized into two options:

  • Full Service Technology Consulting (aka Managed Select): We offer three bundles of consulting services that all begin with a stakeholder alignment workshop. From there, you can decide how long you’d like us to lead the process.
  • Technology Selection Training (aka Self Select): Our training option often appeals to customers who have the right team assembled but could benefit from step-by-step guidance on how to choose a digital asset management system.

All of our DAM consulting services are rooted in a proven technology selection process that has helped our customers make the correct DAM investment, with confidence. 

Make the Best DAM Decision, with AVP

With support from AVP’s digital asset management consultants, you can begin your DAM journey on the path to success.

We’d love to learn about your unique content workflows and technology needs. Contact us to learn more about AVP Select — and how we can work together to achieve your DAM goals, faster.

An Interview with Kara Van Malssen on the DAM Operational Model

14 February 2023

AVP recently published AVP’s Operational Model for DAM Success, authored by Kara Van Malssen. This operational model, pictured to the right, is a thorough, holistic look at what it takes to launch and sustain a healthy and successful digital asset management program. The video below is an interview with Kara Van Malssen about the DAM Operational Model from the creator’s perspective.

Topics in this interview include:

  • Inspiration and background behind the DAM Operational Model
  • How to think about implementing the DAM Operational Model
  • The target audience for this model and who it will work for
  • Whether this model is only for DAM, or if it also works for MAM, PAM, digital preservation, etc.
  • Why leadership should care about, and invest in, getting digital asset management right
  • The costs of getting digital asset management wrong
  • Why each of the components are important and how we should think about them within the model:
    • Purpose
    • People
    • Governance
    • Technology
    • Process
    • Measurement
    • Culture
  • How AVP uses the DAM Operational Model in our work every day
  • What’s next for the DAM Operational Model

Community-centered design for the development of effective cultural heritage training programs

27 January 2023

by Pamela Vizner and Kara Van Malssen

Continuing education and career-long professional development is critical in any field. As professionals dedicated to the stewardship and impactful accessibility of content—archiving, digital preservation, and digital asset management—we know well how important it is to continue to grow and learn as technologies change, user and stakeholder expectations evolve, and as we individually advance in our careers.

Both of us have also been privileged to share our knowledge with others around the world. Over the years, we have participated in dozens of local and international training programs as curriculum designers, trainers, organizers, mentors, and supporters; both as individuals and also as part of AVP’s ongoing efforts to support continuing education in formal and informal settings. These programs have been organized by a variety of professional associations, higher education institutions, and international training organizations. In the past, these were primarily in person—a few days or a week of learning with a handful of practitioners, either from the local area where the training was being conducted, or mixed groups from very different regions of the world. More recently, COVID-related restrictions have forced organizations to restructure training programs to accommodate fully remote or hybrid options, and we have participated in these efforts as well.

Throughout the years we have seen, applied, and analyzed multiple educational and training methodologies. We have seen many successes and have also identified areas of improvement, in other programs and also in our own training practices. 

Recently, we have reflected on shortcomings and opportunities to deliver more value to the participants of these trainings. This was in part motivated by our 2021 engagement with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to help conduct a study on professional development needs for Sustaining Digital Heritage, with the aim of developing a new programme for this topic. Project researchers interviewed over thirty, primarily mid-career, heritage professionals from around the world, and analyzed existing professional development offerings on this topic. The results, and a proposed model for the programme, were published in a report available here. Through this research, we observed that:

  • Interviewees were frustrated by the lack of training opportunities for mid- and advanced-career professionals. Most trainings focus on introductory content.
  • Perhaps because they are introductory, many trainings largely focus on sharing the expertise of the trainers, which doesn’t always connect to or translate to the participants’ context, background, resources, needs, and goals. 
  • Remote trainings largely repurpose the onsite model—bringing people together for a few consecutive days of shared learning with experts brought into present live—but without the critical networking component.
  • In many training settings, there is a lack of opportunity for trainees to practice applying what they are learning to their own context and push solutions forward.

As the professional development landscape adapts to the new realities and opportunities introduced during the pandemic, now seems like a fortuitous time for the professional communities we work with to find ways to innovate and improve the value of professional development offerings, particularly for the international community. Significant investment goes into the development and delivery of all professional development—designing and optimizing for impact is a shared goal by all stakeholders. 

In this reflection, we want to offer some thoughts and ideas that we think could improve these training offerings to precisely maximize their impact while taking advantage of the new technologies and sharing opportunities available to us.

Our recommendations are rooted in human-centered design, a problem solving method that focuses on understanding and empathizing with people in order to develop beneficial solutions. It is worth noting that our recommendations here focus only on professional training programs that are not part of formal educational opportunities offered through universities or similar institutions (e.g. undergraduate programs, master programs, or certificate programs).

The key question we want to explore is: How can we ensure the resources invested in professional development offerings—on the part of organizers, trainers, participants, and funders—delivers the most impact? Our recommendation on how to achieve this can be summarized as:

  1. Discover – Take time to understand participants contexts, background, resources, needs, and goals first
  2. Design – Design training programs that provide ample opportunity to blend theory and practice. 
  3. Deliver – Take advantage of the different opportunities afforded by asynchronous and synchronous learning to maximize shared time. When possible, reuse existing content.
  4. Measure – Take the time to evaluate the results of the program, build in this practice for every iteration of the program to gather feedback to use as a tool to improve it.


In our role as consultants at AVP, our approach with clients focuses on identifying the problem before proposing any solutions: we ask, we listen, we analyze, we engage in dialogue. Then, we find answers together. In other words, we diagnose before we prescribe. We have found this is the only way to find realistic solutions for a problem as each context is unique. 

One area of concern that we have identified is the lack of understanding of local contexts in the design and implementation of professional development programs. A common assumption seems to be that one single solution can be applied in multiple contexts with success.

We have seen many programs lack a clear “discovery” process. In the context of international education, this means that curriculum designers do not take the time to get to know their audience. Moreover, trainers often come from regions where availability of resources is different and where the problems they are trying to solve are of a different nature. As a result of this, programs can not only be ineffective but also run the risk of being perceived as colonizing. These exact solutions will very likely not translate well in a different context. Furthermore, many training programs in our field emphasize technical skills, and in some cases we have seen that the most pressing needs for a community might not even be of a technical nature. Very few programs include topics such as project management or fundraising, for example, which are fundamental in archives management. 

Taking the time to understand trainees’ needs and pain points is key for the design of an impactful program. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or site visits, if possible.


When there isn’t an understanding of the participants’ needs, the design of a program is destined to be built without a foundation. The selection of content, topics, tools, and training methods are left to the assumptions of the organizers, who might have a limited understanding of the needs of the audience they are trying to reach and without a clear set of articulated goals they want to achieve.

The first problem we see is that this often leads to the design of programs that are mostly expository and do not include opportunities for facilitated dialogue, which in many cases helps with absorption and retention. We are not saying that lectures and presentations don’t have any value but not including facilitated dialogue can leave participants without a firm understanding of how to translate what they are learning to their context. 

In addition to this, trainers are often subject matter experts, in some cases renowned professionals with many years of experience, but they are not trained to be facilitators to engage in active problem-solving with participants. Often, there’s no space for collective problem-solving. This one-sided modality has gotten more and more popular with remote options as sometimes it is very difficult to moderate discussions online with large groups. Again, that is not to say there aren’t benefits to applying remote learning, but we are sure at this point we have all experienced the challenges of open communication within remote platforms in educational contexts!

Moreover, because no discovery has been conducted, when hands-on training is included the tools that are presented are very specific and not necessarily can be applied in every single situation. This means that by the end of the program attendees are left with a large set of tools to apply without really knowing how to use them or if they even apply to their own context. For example, open source tools are often presented as the right solution for under-resourced organizations, however, in the selection of a tool there are many more aspects to consider than just availability of financial resources (and open source does not equal free, a point often under communicated).

We believe that in order for current programs to be effective and have a long-term impact a major perspective switch is required: developing curriculums with a problem-solving approach and trainee-centered learning. We think that learning the theory alone does not provide the tools to equip archivists and technicians to find the right solutions for the problems they face, which can vary greatly from organization to organization. Each organization is a different world and their problems and possible solutions are unique. After doing a good discovery, the design of a trainee-centered program not only makes a lot of sense, it also comes together more clearly.

A trainee-centered approach to teaching and learning may inspire different program designs than the typical default approaches.


We believe in taking advantage of the technologies and resources we have at our disposal. Program designers can be creative as long as they keep in mind the goals and needs identified during their discovery and while maintaining a trainee-centered approach. A combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning could be a good solution to maximize time and resources while keeping the program effective and successful. Asynchronous sessions could be followed by group working sessions—in-person or online—where participants have the opportunity to ask questions, apply the newly-acquired knowledge in practical exercises, and discuss the topics presented in the asynchronous sessions. They can learn from each other, and come up with creative solutions together. Allowing participants to review concepts ahead of time would not only provide space for reflection and reinforcement, but also maximize the time participants and trainers spend together. 

In this context, the role of the trainer, rather than being a lecturer, switches to a facilitator who guides participants through their own process of discovery as they try to marry theory with their own challenges. This implies that the trainers’ skills are different: this person should be a subject matter expert but also someone who is capable of guiding a conversation, challenging participants, and facilitating team work. This also means that the trainer needs to spend some time learning about the participants’ needs so they can offer effective guidance and help them find the right solutions. They need to do their own “discovery” process, know how to listen, be open, come in without preconceived notions of what the participant’s context is about, what they know and what they don’t, what their roles are within their organization, and what their expectations might be. On the other hand, participants should come prepared to share examples of current challenges for discussion and engage in collaborative problem-solving. Clear guidelines on expectations of participants and how to come prepared would be helpful in aligning all parties for productive time together.

Another advantage of this two-phased approach is that evergreen content can be created ahead of time. This can be reused, shared, translated, etc. If during discovery you have identified needs in broader areas, such as project management, then there’s an opportunity to reuse content from other sources. Obviously, there are many programs and content out there that can be used in tandem with domain-specific content. Partnerships with other educating organizations could cover the basics of general topics to facilitate access to already-existing content.


Determining the impact of the program must go beyond simply a feedback form delivered immediately after a training session. Instead, during the design stage, articulate a goal (or goals) of what you want the training to achieve, then determine what key performance indicators would be useful to measure to understand if you have achieved those goals. Next, determine how this information would be gathered.

For example, maybe one of your goals is to increase collaboration amongst participants in a regional training event. In order to determine if this goal has been met, you may want to track engagement on certain platforms, or whether or not they have organized follow up events. If one of your goals is for participants to be able to test a certain tool for their workflow, you may need to send participants home with clear instructions for testing. Later, follow up to with questions asking whether they completed the test, how easy was it to complete the test, how likely they are to adopt the tool.

We believe the end of the training cycle is not when the last session is over. Learning from past experiences is invaluable and will help build a better, more sustainable, more effective program. Asking participants, trainers, and other parties involved what they think, at the right moments, will give you information to continue to improve and better allocate resources in the future. Besides feedback forms, finding other ways to measure impact can be beneficial in planning future sessions. You can also design evaluation tools that are reusable so you can use this historical information to measure progress over time.


The Audiovisual Preservation Exchange (APEX) is an international program that encourages dialogue and non-hierarchical exchange between practitioners, students, and the general public around the management and use of audiovisual collections (physical and digital). Organized by the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program (MIAP) at New York University (NYU) and created by Mona Jimenez, APEX has collaborated for the past 14 years with different types of organizations—including national archives, libraries, documentation centers, and community archives—to foster dialogue and mutual learning through direct work with collections. APEX is organized once a year in a different location, and previous versions have been held in Ghana, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Spain, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. AVP has been a long-time collaborator of APEX since its creation in 2008 through the participation of staff members in a variety of activities —including training— and as a current program sponsor.

APEX is not a traditional training program—everyone is a contributor and participants all learn from each other’s experiences navigating and responding to diverse administrative infrastructures and availability of resources. Its open-ended methodology embodies the approach we have described here, in a flexible and collaborative way.  

APEX starts with dialog (akin to the discovery stage described above), followed by a collaborative design process between partners. Then content delivered is based on identified needs and according to the resources available. Outcomes are measured and the process iterated on each year.

Gramophone Records Museum and Research Centre in Cape Coast, Ghana, 2008

Different from many international archival programs, APEX has a community-centered approach: each year, APEX organizers and local partners define the specific activities based on the communities’ needs. In some cases, most of the effort is focused on working on specific collections to find solutions to specific problems. In some other cases, the program includes hands-on workshops with the broader community to raise awareness around care and management of their own collections. To make this possible, APEX organizers work hand-in-hand with local partners to design the most impactful program possible.

Over the years, we have learned that the discovery process is key to a successful program and we have incorporated that as a fundamental part of the initial planning. This process starts with meetings with partners, followed by surveys, and in some cases site visits which are incredibly helpful to understand contextual information that might not be mentioned in conversations or surveys. Having the opportunity to see the spaces available, the collections, and the equipment; understanding any cultural differences or barriers; and having the opportunity to engage in person with partners has been useful information to prepare a program that is achievable, makes sense for all the people involved, and that focuses on the right topics. 

The design of the program is a long, collaborative process that can take several months. Based on the information gathered, activities are proposed to partners. These are discussed, refined, then discussed again. Every attempt is made to maximize the resources available (equipment, lodging, transportation, working spaces, technologies, existing documentation, etc.) and use collective networks to find additional resources and required skills to align with the needs identified (e.g. equipment donations, reaching out to a colleague who can collaborate with information on a certain topic, etc.).

Pamela Vizner and Caroline Gil, APEX Puerto Rico (Vieques) 2019

Delivery always varies. APEX is an in-person program, although in 2021 we were forced to organize a virtual version. In some cases we can organize online sessions with a colleague over video call to explain or discuss a given topic. There is only one thing that remains the same for each version: we ALWAYS engage in dialogue and learn from each other. The hands-on work with collections is the catalyst to discuss broader topics: as we work together to inventory video tapes we discuss approaches to digitization, and inevitably questions about digital preservation come up. Local organizations learn from each other as they uncover ways to collaborate or to learn about local resources they didn’t know existed. Every single version of APEX is not just a learning experience, it is a human experience that strengthens our networks at every level, from professional to personal, from local to international. This impact enables the creation of long-lasting connections and collaborations that live well beyond the duration of the program.

Finally, measurement of success is often done internally. Every single version of the program has resulted in learnings that are incorporated into the planning of the next version. However, there is still some work to be done in this area. APEX has recently created an advisory board that hopefully help formalize processes even more, and open it up to broader communities who can take advantage of this model in other locations.

Video Digitization Workshop, APEX México (Chiapas) 2022

Aligning Our Purpose, Messaging, and Branding

22 August 2022

Over the past 9 months or so AVP has been working with the superstar team over at Parisleaf on an effort to refine our messaging and branding. If you had asked me prior to beginning this process what I thought it would be like I might have thought it would be building from the ground up. Or perhaps just figuring out how to communicate more clearly. However, as a 15 year old company I think the process may be more akin to chiseling at a large stone to reveal the underlying figure. It was a painstaking process that consisted of shedding some things, finely shaping others, rounding off rough edges, making tough decisions, and making commitments. It was a difficult, albeit rewarding process.

We went through this process rather than just building a new website because at 15 years old we knew we needed more than just a new coat of paint. We needed to do some more serious reflection, renovation, and updating. In order to do our most impactful work and deliver the most value to our clients, we needed to understand, articulate, and deliver on what we do best – and do more of it.

Our aim is to take the outcomes of this introspective process and create the flywheel:

  • Be clear within ourselves about what we do best and where our passion lies
  • Clearly articulate verbally and visually what we do best and where our passion lies
  • Attract an audience to whom we can deliver greater value and impact than anyone else out there 
  • Build and innovate on what we do best and where our passion lies, maintaining our advantage and competitive edge

And so, with this intent, you will see that we have refined/new messaging, logo, website, and of course, some really good swag.

So, what did we come up with? You can see the visual changes throughout the site, and we will explain more about the logo below. Our new colors have been selected to represent our organization’s attributes. These are:

  • Professional & Accomplished
  • Future-Forward & Imaginative
  • Dynamic & Energetic

We can also now better articulate why we exist:

We help clients to maximize the value of their digital assets.

If you don’t know what they are, 

if they can’t be found, 

if they can’t be used effectively, 

if they’re damaged or lost, 

if they’re disconnected from other systems, 

then they aren’t creating value. 

And, if they’re badly managed, 

they’re an expensive overhead and a liability. 

Because data isn’t valuable until you can do something with it.

And share our purpose:

Your digital assets have extraordinary potential. 

Our purpose is to maximize their value through the innovation of information ecosystems.

And describe how we fulfill our purpose:

We connect humans and data. In collaboration with our clients, we create complete ecosystems for managing data that are designed around how their teams actually work and think.

Our value comes from our diverse perspectives. To see value and opportunities in data, you have to see things from different angles. We’re a forward-thinking team of cross-disciplinary experts working across a wide range of industries, so we know how to work with data in unique ways for different clients. 

Since 2006, we’ve been helping clients pinpoint their true vision and reach their goals. Instead of generic solutions, we actively listen to your needs and focus on opportunities that bring about beneficial change. We’re experts at challenging organizations to see the bigger picture, to understand where they are on their digital journey, and to navigate their next steps.

Our new logo represents this.

There are multiple meaningful elements within this logo:

We meet our customers where they are.

We look at the big picture.

We bring a clarifying spark.

We guide.

We know that there will be a lot of questions about our updates and we look forward to talking with our peeps about them. Meanwhile, we have anticipated some specific questions about what our rebranding means, and have created the FAQ below.


Your new website seems to focus on digital asset management. Does this mean that you don’t offer services focused on digital preservation or collection management anymore?

No. We believe that digital asset management is a concept that encapsulates everything we do.  Sometimes when we use the term we are literally referring to digital asset management systems (i.e., DAMS), but as a concept, it also encompasses digital preservation, collection management, data management, metadata management, and more. These data are digital assets to your organization—we help you realize their value.

Do you still offer software development? I no longer see it under the services offered.

Through our reflection we had a couple of insights into how we talk about the services we offer.

First, we are not a consulting and software company. We are an information innovation firm. What does that mean? It means that we have a cross-disciplinary team of experts that maximize the value of digital assets through the innovation of information ecosystems. This team of subject matter experts consult, advise, develop, engineer, and more. The titles many of our peeps have consist of some version of Consultant and Software Engineer. We all focus on, are experienced within, and are experts in the domain of digital asset management.

Second, our continued software engineering contributions will be in support of digital asset management projects and prototypes. For instance, we will use software engineering when performing data migration, system integration, metadata cleanup, workflow automation, AI evaluation, and more. We will also use software engineering to build prototypes and proof of concept applications focused on digital asset management practice that will either be handed off to another entity to turn into a production system or will have otherwise served its purpose and be shut down.

What we won’t do moving forward is build production systems that require ongoing maintenance, support, and an entirely different infrastructure and operations to sustain. They are very different animals and operations. This approach and focus maximizes the value and impact that AVP can deliver and leaves the rest to others who can deliver maximum value and impact in those areas.

Does your focus on digital asset management mean that you are a DAM provider now?

When most people use the term DAM they are thinking of a software product/platform. We intentionally use the phrase digital asset management instead of DAM because we are 1) not a product/platform, and 2) we are referring to the broader practice of digital asset management, encompassing purpose, people, governance, process, technology, and measurement. We offer services focused on this holistic perspective of digital asset management practice.

Why did you remove products from your website? What has happened to your products?

We strongly believe in our products and know that they have been significant contributions to the communities we serve. We found that having both services and products on the website created confusion. People weren’t sure if we offered services or products and wondered what the relationship between our services and products were. Therefore we decided that wearavp.com will be focused on the services we offer. Paid AVP products like Aviary and Fixity Pro would best be represented by having their own independent websites. Products that have been developed by AVP for customers like embARC and ADCTest are best represented by those customers and the associated GitHub accounts. And finally, some products like MDQC, Catalyst, and Exactly will either remain available without support on GitHub or will be sunsetted.

Why did you keep the same name?

We actually set out to create a new name for AVP as part of this endeavor and we went through a process that required a great deal of time, energy, and thought. We arrived at a decision that, despite the cons of our name (not memorable, bad for SEO, etc.), redefining the name rather than changing it offered more pros and just felt right.

So, what does it stand for? Well, it stands for multiple things in different contexts. To name a few: Ambitious Vibrant People, Abundant Vantage Points, and Ample Value Proposition. You will see these sprinkled throughout our new website.

Finding the Right DAM AI Tools: AVP’s Human-Centered Evaluation Framework

23 March 2022

Henry Stewart DAM Webinars 2022

Watch the webinar with a searchable transcript and embedded closed captions here.

[Read more]

To Build a Successful DAM Program, Adopt a Service Mindset

25 August 2021

Kara_Crop-1Kara Van Malssen is Partner and Managing Director for Services at AVP.  Kara works with clients to bridge the technical, human, and business aspects of projects. Kara has supported numerous organizations with DAM selection and implementation, metadata modeling and schema development, and taxonomy development, and user experience design efforts.

[Read more]

Audiovisual Metadata Platform Pilot Development (AMPPD) Final Project Report

21 March 2022

This report documents the experience and findings of the Audiovisual Metadata Platform Pilot Development (AMPPD) project, which has worked to enable more efficient generation of metadata to support discovery and use of digitized and born-digital audio and moving image collections. The AMPPD project was carried out by partners Indiana University Libraries, AVP, University of Texas at Austin, and New York Public Library between 2018-2021.

Report Authors : Jon W. Dunn, Ying Feng, Juliet L. Hardesty, Brian Wheeler, Maria Whitaker, and Thomas Whittaker, Indiana University Libraries; Shawn Averkamp, Bertram Lyons, and Amy Rudersdorf, AVP; Tanya Clement and Liz Fischer, University of Texas at Austin Department of English. The authors wish to thank Rachael Kosinski and Patrick Sovereign for formatting and editing assistance.

Funding Acknowledgement: The work described in this report was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read the entire report here.


Libraries and archives hold massive collections of audiovisual recordings from a diverse range of timeframes, cultures, and contexts that are of great interest across many disciplines and communities.

In recent years, increased concern over the longevity of physical audiovisual formats due to issues of

media degradation and obsolescence, 2 combined with the decreasing cost of digital storage, have led institutions to embark on projects to digitize recordings for purposes of long-term preservation and improved access. Simultaneously, the growth of born-digital audiovisual content, which struggles with its own issues of stability and imminent obsolescence, has skyrocketed and continues to grow exponentially.

In 2010, the Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Library of Congress reported in “The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age” that the complexity of preserving and accessing physical audiovisual collections goes far beyond digital reformatting. This complexity, which includes factors such as the cost to digitize the originals and manage the digital surrogates, is evidenced by the fact that large audiovisual collections are not well represented in our national and international digital platforms. The relative paucity of audiovisual content in Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America is a testament to the difficulties that the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) community faces in creating access to their audiovisual collections. There has always been a desire for more audiovisual content in DPLA, even as staff members recognize the challenges and complexities this kind of content poses (massive storage requirements, lack of description, etc.). And, even though Europeana has made the collection of audiovisual content a focus of their work in recent years, as of February 2021, Europeana comprises 59% images and 38% text objects, but only 1% sound objects and 2% video objects. DPLA is composed of 25% images and 54% text, with only 0.3% sound objects, and 0.6% video objects.

Another reason, beyond cost, that audiovisual recordings are not widely accessible is the lack of sufficiently granular metadata to support identification, discovery, and use, or to support informed rights determination and access control and permissions decisions on the part of collections staff and users. Unlike textual materials—for which some degree of discovery may be provided through full-text indexing—without metadata detailing the content of the dynamic files, audiovisual materials cannot be located, used, and ultimately, understood.

Traditional approaches to metadata generation for audiovisual recordings rely almost entirely on manual description performed by experts—either by writing identifying information on a piece of physical media such as a tape cassette, typing bibliographic information into a database or spreadsheet, or creating collection- or series-level finding aids. The resource requirements and the lack of scalability to transfer even this limited information to a useful digital format that supports discovery presents an intractable problem. Lack of robust description stands in the way of access, ultimately resulting in the inability to derive full value from digitized and born-digital collections of audiovisual content, which in turn can lead to lack of interest, use, and potential loss of a collection entirely to obsolescence and media degradation.

Read the entire report here

People-Centered Media Asset Management at National Geographic Society [Webinar Recording]

28 June 2021

Understanding how content creators and Media Asset Management (MAM) users think, behave, and view the world can help create critical building blocks that translate into a powerful MAM user experience. To chart your course toward managerial success, it’s equally important to identify the goals of the MAM as well.

Our Media Asset Management consulting work with the National Geographic Society (NatGeo or NGS) illustrates how understanding the difference between the thinking, behavior, and worldview of content creators and MAM users translates to asset management of the grandest proportions.

Illuminating the World with MAM

The NGS’s primary mission is to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. For decades their primary method for doing so was with their world-famous magazine, sharing images and written stories about the miraculous cultures, species, and wonders of our natural world. 

Today, ever in tune with the modern digital age, the NGS now shares those images and stories through its website, social media platforms, and television programs. 

However, this variety in publication means they need an ironclad method for managing all of their media content and assets—especially when the NGS supports between 700-800 explorers every year. And thanks to AVP’s asset management expertise and experience, the NGS MAM system can grow to support as many explorers as they need.

The NGS’s Media Asset Management system works as the bridge between those field explorers documenting what the world has to offer and the eyes and hearts of the people. With terabytes upon terabytes of assets to manage, a MAM helps NGS’s content creators sift through their database to find the materials they need to tell their stories.

Selection and Description of Assets

After exploring potential solutions to the NGS’s problems, AVP helped the NGS identify two primary concerns with their Media Asset Management system: Selection and description. These pain points were based on the experience of the content creators who use the system the most, helping us identify the correct Media Asset Management tools we needed to employ.

Selection, in this case, refers to the ability to curate digital media assets before they even make it into the MAM system. Since the NGS manages assets from hundreds of sources every year, this curation process is imperative for its ability to ensure that the assets in the MAM align with the scope of what the MAM is intended to support. This results in more effective management and ultimately a better user experience. 

Description largely refers to the creation and application of metadata— information that helps users search and discover relevant assets with efficiency and quality.

These two concepts, among others, were identified and addressed through multiple AVP service offerings, helping the NGS successfully launch their MAM and meet the needs of their stakeholders that are creating, managing, and using digital media assets.

Learn from the Experts

At AVP, we practice user-centered approaches to cultivate successful MAM programs. By focusing on the user experience, AVP better ensures that whether or not we help you select your MAM, that the MAM you have serves your needs, goals, and objectives as effectively as possible.

Want the full picture of the National Geographic Society’s MAM program? In this webinar, AVP Managing Director of Consulting and MAM expert Kara Van Malssen is joined by our clients Angela Sanders and Jorge Alvarenga of National Geographic Society to share how people-centered thinking is innovating how NGS is building and managing their MAM program. 

Enjoy the webinar (with searchable transcripts) in the embedded player below or hosted in the Aviary platform.

[Read more]

Designing a User-driven DAM Experience, Part 1

9 April 2021

To the user, a digital asset management (DAM) or similar system is only as good as the search and discovery experience.

If users are greeted with a homepage that they can’t relate to, if searches don’t return expected results, and if they can’t figure out how to use the navigational tools to browse, they get frustrated and leave. Many will never return.


DAM and similar systems exist to help people find assets they are looking for and use them effectively. Getting the search and discovery experience right is the key to adoption.

To design a system for findability, you have to start with the building blocks: metadata, taxonomy, and information architecture. To translate these into a good search and discovery experience, you have to learn how your users see the world.

[Read more]

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