Getting started in Digital Asset Management with minimal resources: Southwest Minnesota State University Digital Archives


Archives at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN

How do you secure funding for a digital asset management initiative with little to no resources?  We’ll show you how Southwest Minnesota State University was able to do just that.  Click here to explore their digital archives.

Southwest Minnesota State University began working with PALS in 2012 on our beta project.   The beta project is what allowed us to really first test out Islandora as a potential solution.  We sent out an offer to interested partners that let them try out Islandora for free.  This gave us the chance to really put Islandora through its paces.

Southwest Minnesota State University responded to the beta project offer because they saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally begin moving forward with digital asset management.  For them digital asset management had always been a priority:

“We are a relatively young university (we’ll celebrate 50 years in 2017) and we want to begin capturing as much of our history electronically as we can. Having a digital asset management tool in place, especially one as versatile as Islandora, is vital to that goal.” – Pam Gladis, University Librarian, Southwest Minnesota State University

For the initial beta project Southwest Minnesota State University had one full time staff member, Pam Gladis (now University Librarian at Southwest Minnesota State University), and two part-time assistants.

The beta project allowed them to at last get started with a digital asset management project.  Pam Gladis chose to digitize Southwest Minnesota State University’s alumni newsletter “The Focus”, with the hope that once digitized, they could use it to show the importance of D.A.M. and what it could do.  They succeeded and were able to build a successful partnership and secure funding from their Alumni Foundation.

The beta project was a key factor for Southwest’s ability to move forward.  But it wasn’t the main reason Southwest succeeded.  For them “Having a digital asset management tool in place, especially one as versatile as Islandora, is vital.”  In other words, they had buy-in and support from the start.  Resources held them back.

We want to help you build that initial support and buy-in.

So how can we get started with minimal resources? How can we build support for digital asset management? 

  1. Choose a small, impact-full collection to start with.  Photograph collections always provide good visuals, or perhaps you have documents related to your institution’s founding that would make a good first project.  Or maybe its a student publication or newspaper.  Or a video collection, or audio.
  2. Think about who you are, your mission and goals, and what project could resonate the most with other department, students, and alumni.   For Southwest this was the Alumni newsletter.  For another institution, their first documents were related to accreditation. Find something unique that showcases what your institution is all about.
  3. If you think you want to get started with a project but don’t have a way to show off your initial collection, contact us here.  We have a demo repository where we can load some of your materials.  Select “Islandora Hosting (Open Source Digital Asset Management)” and let us know you would like us to set up a demo collection for you.  Please click here and browse through what other institutions have asked us to load for them.
  4. Once this is done, you’ll have something to share with others who may be interested and gain support.  Building buy-in is key to any digital asset management initiative.    We’ll also be happy to do an online or in person demonstration for you.  Click here to contact us for a demonstration.  Select “Islandora Hosting (Open Source Digital Asset Management)” and let us know you would like to talk to us more about Islandora.

Lastly, building support for a digital asset management project takes time, patience, and persistence.  But once you get there, you will be able to move forward.

Our goal is to help you do take those steps.




Minnesota State University ARCHives: No longer marooned on an island



Hidden away on the third floor of the library at Minnesota State University-Mankato are the Minnesota State University ARCHives.  For too long the work occurring here has been one of Minnesota’s best kept secrets.  Staff here are tucked away, marooned on their own island.  This is a feeling that many tackling digital asset management or digital preservation might share.


Not just building a repository

PALS is building a community to help support you with digital asset management.

To this end our work with Minnesota State University -Mankato’s ARCHives began with  core goals:

  • To build a repository that allows Minnesota State University-Mankato to preserve and manage their digital assets
  • To build an open, collaborative community to support digital asset management efforts
    • Keep our partners connected to the current international Islandora open source community
  • To develop/support abilities that allow Minnesota State University to share and promote their online collections
  • To enhance and streamline existing workflows

Minnesota State University-Mankato was one of our early partners.  As they adopted Islandora and became comfortable with it, they shared their experience and expertise with our partners and other interested institutions.

This was essential to bringing our community together.  We continue sharing workflows, advice, and features among our partners.  This is really what we can provide for you.  Not just the repository software, but a community committed to collaborative efforts.  Minnesota State University-Mankato’s early commitment to this ideal helped cement it within our partners.

Misspelling University Connundrum

As Minnesota State Mankato shared their knowledge it became clear that Islandora had a major positive impact on their workflow and efficiency.  This began with the metadata.  Islandora’s ingest forms allow for custom metadata with lots of controlled vocabulary, instructions, and constant data.   This allows Minnesota State University student workers to enter metadata following strict, detailed Minnesota Digital Library guidelines with ease.  Prior to Islandora they had difficulty with quality control and training.  For example, University kept getting misspelled.

With the Digital Asset Management Solution Minnesota State Mankato used at the time, they didn’t know who was making the error (or that it was being made) and couldn’t train that person in proper technique.  Work quality suffered, and it meant that error – and others – needed to be cleaned up when Minnesota State Mankato migrated to Islandora.

Empowering quality work

Islandora enhances quality control in metadata with a simple workflow review queue.  New objects described by students go into a queue before “going live” into the repository.   There they can be reviewed by staff.  Their login credentials are also assigned to the object.  So now, staff can review, provide feedback, and train students, thus empowering high quality work.

This has happened on a larger scale within our community.  Our goal is to improve workflows, efficiency, and quality work.  We do this by sharing workflows, expertise, and features.  This is what we want to do for you.   We want to provide you with not only a repository, but a community that can empower your work.

Quality work in action: Wierd Stain Syndrome


The impacts Islandora has had on MSU-Mankato’s workflow have further convinced us of its viability as a solution.   It is also highly flexible and able to support unforeseen issues. When vinegar syndrome – a condition that can rapidly increase degradation of physical material – ARCHives staff were able to respond and focus work on ingesting (loading) the affected objects.  They were able to scan and ingest 140+ over a few weeks, and continue to do so at a fast pace.  Without the DAM solution in place this would not be possible, and the materials could be at risk of being lost.

No longer alone

You will no longer be tackling a difficult issue on your own. When you do, your partners will be there for you and you will no longer be one of Minnesota’s best kept secrets.   You shouldn’t be.  It’s much easier and more cost effective to tackle Digital Asset Management collaboratively, and not isolated on your own island.    Take the first step.






Why Digital Asset Management?

Why should I be concerned with digital asset management? 

Digital Asset Management gives you full access to and control of the true value hidden with your data.  What is that value? Stories.

Your stories can be found within your unique materials: Photographs, publications, video files, research data, newspapers, newsletters, and more.   Digital asset management allows you to discover, create, preserve, and share your story.

We offer a solution that will allow us to build a unique repository that meets the needs of your institution: Islandora, an open source digital asset management system.

On this site we will share our experiences with Digital Asset Management. We also want to hear from you – what are your stories? Successes? Failures? Are you looking at a Digital Asset Management solution? What are your needs?  Please tell us your stories in the comment section below, or contact us at  We would like to share your stories as content on this site, but will of course not do so without permission.

We want to ensure that your digital assets are preserved.  Libraries and Archives are in a unique position to steward digital preservation and PALS can help support such initiatives. Our goal is to help you design a solution for Digital Asset Management that meets your needs.

We will provide consultation, training, and support throughout the entire process.  You will become a full partner in our community with access to our partners’ unique expertise and experience.  All current features will be available to you.

You will no longer be alone.  Digital Asset Management becomes much less intimidating when there is a community to help support your efforts. We will provide that.  When you have access to our community resources and knowledge, you can do more with less.

Through this site we’ll share our stories, offer advice and knowledge, to help you with digital asset management.