Differences between Digital Archivists and Digital Asset Managers

View of McKeldin Library from the Mall with blue sky and clouds.This Monday, I will be presenting the paper When Archivists and Digital Asset Managers Collide: Tensions and Ways Forward at the Archival Education and Research Institute 2015 at the University of Maryland.  It gets at the sticky issue, what is the difference between digital asset managers and digital archivists anyway? Below you will find a short description of the study:


While archivists have been developing methods to appraise, accession, arrange and describe born-digital records, a new class of professionals—the digital asset manager—has developed.  The digital asset manager sees her role as creating a repository of assets that can be easily and efficiently reused by staff.  Given the closeness of this role to the archivist, this case study will explore the question: what issues arise between archivists and digital asset managers when they are working together in the same organization?  To study this, the researcher spent one year as a participant observer at a major art museum located in the northeast United States.  He found that indeed tensions do exist firstly because the digital asset manager and archivists do not recognize the different roles each is playing and hence enter a kind of competition.  Secondly, this tension stems from an intellectual disagreement about how digital record keeping will play-out over the next several decades.  The study will conclude with suggested ways of moving forward so that both digital asset managers and archivists can further their respective missions.

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3 Replies to “Differences between Digital Archivists and Digital Asset Managers”

  1. Interesting! Having been both an archivist and digital asset manager, and a digital asset manager who employs a digital archivist, I’ve never run across those tensions myself, but I can see how they might crop up in different settings. Wish I could make the presentation – it’s certainly a thought-provoking read for me. Normally, I’m too busy complaining about how digital asset managers whose job titles look too ‘library-y’ or ‘archive-y’ are underpaid http://www.lisagrimm.com/?p=653), compared to their colleagues with more IT-focused titles, though the core problem is still that most librarians and archivists are woefully underpaid…but in any case, if you’re ever interested in studying library and archives folk who work in DAM, I’d be happy to collaborate.

  2. As I prep the second edition of my DAM book, I stumbled on your paper. It’s great! My one complaint: I’m cited in the same bibliography as Space Jam. As a long time fan of animation, I’m sad this was the animation reference in the same bibliography with me.

    But seriously: we should debate at some point about the roles of Archivists vs. Digital Asset Managers. The pay gap for the same type of work is very real outside the academic environment.

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