The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) is one of the world’s leading universities. As ushers of many of the technological evolutions of the past century and a half, it’s no surprise ETH-Bibliothek (the university’s library) has accumulated a digital asset archive so valuable that even Google took notice.
It’s also not surprising an organization like this would take such care in choosing a digital asset management (DAM) system to manage its archive—and make it easily accessible via the world’s favorite search engine.
Canto Cumulus wasn’t the first system ETH-Bibliothek considered—it was the last. Cumulus offered the balance of power and control ETH-Bibliothek needed to securely publish information online and handle virtually unlimited Internet use. To simplify account management, Cumulus could integrate with the university’s LDAP system—another big plus. But best of all, Cumulus was an open system the library could integrate with the world’s premiere marketing tool—Google—to lead Internet users right to the university’s virtual front door.
ETH-Bibliothek started digitizing its photo archive during the late 1990s, and for good reason, explains Dr. Rudolf Mumenthaler, Head of Innovation and Marketing for ETH-Bibliothek.
“Images had become increasingly important for teaching, documentation and research. We had to make our archive accessible.”
Quickly outgrowing their first digital asset management (DAM) system, Mumenthaler knew ETH needed something more powerful to keep pace with increasing demand from other departments.
“Each department needed their own taxonomies and metadata. Plus, they wanted control over who saw their images, for digital rights management reasons.”
Mumenthaler carefully considered no fewer than six DAM systems before deciding on Cumulus.
“Among our main requirements were the ability to provide catalogs to each department, offer cross-platform support, and the system had to be Web accessible with no user software required.”
Cumulus easily met Mumenthaler’s initial requirements, but the benefits went even deeper.
“Cumulus offered image processing and conversion options that other systems didn’t. It’s very useful, for example, that lecturers can find images and download them as PowerPoint slides.”
But it was distribution control that topped the requirements lists of the university departments.
“Success of the project depended on access and distribution control, and Cumulus had the best solution for this.”
Mumenthaler admits it was difficult for some departments to see the benefits of DAM at first, but that changed once Cumulus was launched.
“Our initial plan was that 10 catalogs would justify the system. Today we have 18.”
The flexible Cumulus API enabled ETH to customize the program to suit its needs.
“We built our own Web access software so we could offer our own user interface.”
Cumulus interfaces were also built for the university’s LDAP system, storage area network (SAN), Web CMS Silva, and the library’s “Knowledge Portal,” which will soon provide a Google interface to library images.
Canto partner, Interaktion, made the integrations even easier for ETH, says Mumenthaler.
“We have good experiences with Interaktion— they know Cumulus very well.” Canto also offered ETH some help, when needed.
“We needed to mirror metadata to an SQL system. Cumulus didn’t support this at the time, but Canto made that happen by the next release.”
In cooperation with Google, ETH built a Google/ Cumulus interface to further the system’s reach. Google image search provides links directly into Cumulus where users can learn more about an ETH image, preview it with zoom and pan, and download it too. The integration bolstered ETH’s Cumulus Web traffic by a staggering 2,000% in 12 months.
Additional departments will get their own catalogs, and to boost revenues from commerical asset use, a PayPal link is planned.
For Dr. Mumenthaler and ETH, Cumulus was money well spent.
“Without Cumulus, I don’t know how all these services could be offered. There might be an alternate solution, but I can’t think of one.”