Matthias Vandermaesen


Tales in digital architecture written by Matthias Vandermaesen

December reboot

So, December has kicked off. It’s a nice opportunity to do a reboot as we approach the end of the year. I’m active in the field of GLAM institutions. Galleries, libraries, archives and Museums. As a digital specialist, I’m involved in the ongoing digitisation or automatisation of processes within these organisations. Coming from the private sector, I apply my experience of realising digital projects of various scale and size for a wide variety of clients, on a daily basis on an operational level. Doing a blog series about the experience of these past few years has been on a my wish list for a while now.

When we’re talking about digital within the GLAM domain, the discussion tends to focus on digital collections and the challenges associated with these collections. Questions about preservation and dissemination of digital born or digitized materials come to the limelight. Finding clear cut answers isn’t straightforward and often raises more questions. Where to start? How do we define success factors? What are suitable KPI’s? How can we account for the investments of significant budgets in digital projects which have limited lifetime before they become obsolete?

Many of the challenges we face are wicked problems. Often there is no ‘absolute’ answer or ‘right’ solution available, leaving us to our own devices. A self-defined framework of values and guiding principles is our primary foundation in validating and choosing a suitable strategy when going forward. The uncertainty surrounding the sustainability and affordability of the technologies and practices we have to decide on easily stiffle us into an apprehensive position.

Sharing knowledge, experiences and tools are absolutely crucial if we want to avoid falling into a deadlock. Of equal importance is acknowledging that strategies and protocols have to evolve as GLAM institutions keep redefining their role within an ever changing societal context. Even so, our efforts always serve our mission of preserving and opening up (digital) collections for generations to come.

What am I going to blog about? Over the past few years, I’ve been mainly involved in designing and building digital architectures for sharing and reusing metadata related to cultural heritage objects. Many of my blog posts will reflect on the technical tools and the practices we use on a daily basis to solve operational challenges. I don’t want to limit myself to the purely technical side, though. I’ll also explore the thinking processes and the considerations that go in choosing these strategies and tools and the many pitfalls which lurk below the surface.

My audience for this series is anyone who involved with digital activities within their GLAM organisation and faces questions about managing digital collections. My aim is to point readers in a helpful direction, and to provide inspiration as they work on realising their own digital strategies.

I will assume you have some technical experience as delving into basic programming/coding principles is not within the scope of this series. Though, I will add enough references to basic background information.

Now, let’s get started.

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