Using a DAMS throughout the full lifecycle of digital assets

Museum DAM workflows control how well an institution cares for its digital assets. Creating and following internal processes, with a digital asset management system (DAMS), helps to ensure their preservation, organization, and standardized usage.

Since many departments interact daily with digital assets—from the DAM team to collections care, marketing, and education—it’s integral to have clear procedures in place.

But museums often face a twofold challenge: developing DAM workflows that account for every stage of a digital asset’s lifecycle, then enforcing them across the entire museum.

Luckily, there are steps for avoiding these pitfalls. Keep reading to learn the best practices of building museum DAM workflows, plus how to leverage your DAMS with optimal results.

What is a DAM workflow?

Every DAM workflow is a series of actionable tasks that move digital assets through their lifecycles.

Within museums, these lifecycles differ depending on the type(s) of digital assets being managed. But they can include similar stages, for instance:

  • Digital asset creation
  • Ingestion into the DAMS
  • File management
  • Cataloging and adding metadata
  • Distribution and publication

Museum DAM workflows also don’t need to progress linearly—a digital asset can move back and forth between stages, depending on its usage within the institution.

Benefits of a structured DAM workflow

Digital asset management depends on the success of its established workflows.

When DAM workflows aren’t standardized and followed internally, the result is often a degradation in care. Disorganized or inconsistent stewardship of digital assets can lead to erroneous and missing data entry, approval backlogs, and departmental silos.

Optimal asset management

Without a DAMS and structured workflows, caring for digital assets can easily become a mess of desktop folders and files of mysterious, long-forgotten origins.

Adhering to standardized DAM workflows is necessary to ensure digital assets are organized following a stable, predictable methodology. Meaning your DAMS users can find, access, and share assets without unforeseen issues.

When built and implemented well, a DAM workflow should ensure consistent labeling, storage, and usage of digital assets at your institution.

Better productivity and collaboration

Digital asset management involves many staff members, often spread across different departments in a museum.

As a result, barriers to productivity, collaboration, and communication do arise.

The objective of a structured DAM workflow is ensuring everyone knows who is responsible for which tasks and when they should occur in the timeline.

Using a DAMS facilitates this goal. It offers specialized features and functionality designed for DAM automation and collaborative work, such as asset requests, reviews, and approvals.

Faster requests and approvals

Say goodbye to weekly games of email tag. DAMS can be leveraged to automate the request and approval processes for photography, video, and other media assets.

Accelerating these workflows can resolve previous bottlenecks, improve asset tracking, and reduce issues around version control.

Consistent usage

In larger institutions, it’s common for departments that create public-facing materials—like Marketing, Events, and Education—to have DAMS access.

Established DAM workflows can ensure these departments are retrieving and using the correct digital assets.

Maintaining these safeguards helps to preserve brand consistency, plus uphold copyright and use restrictions.

Steps toward building a DAM workflow

Creating a new DAM workflow doesn’t need to overwhelm your museum’s time, resources, and personnel. Dividing the building process into separate stages can help make it achievable for any size of institution.

Step 1: Identify your DAM team and key stakeholders

First, you must identify who is involved in your project’s success and at what capacity. Team selection can include members from different departments across the museum.

In most DAM workflow projects, there are three types of participants:

  • Project lead: Team leader who manages the DAM workflow and ensures their project team adheres to the determined steps, standards, and timelines.
  • Project team: Museum staff, contractors, and/or interns tasked with various active roles in the DAM workflow.
  • Key stakeholders: Any parties invested in the project’s fruition and achieving its intended outcomes for short- and long-term success.

Step 2: Take inventory and categorize your assets

After identifying your DAM workflow participants, perform an internal audit of all the digital assets owned and used by your museum. If the volume feels insurmountable, consider prioritizing collections of assets that are most important to the museum’s mission first.

You can streamline this step by classifying the assets into such categories as:

  • Artwork
  • Photographs
  • Historical documents
  • Educations documents
  • Multimedia exhibits
  • Licensed content

These findings will inform what assets will be ingested into your DAMS and become part of your DAM workflows.

Step 3: Outline your project goals and processes

Prioritize planning for the desired outcomes of your DAM workflow. Start by clarifying the project’s overarching goals before moving onto developing its framework and associated processes.


Museum DAM workflows need a strong overarching purpose. Essentially, this purpose should provide an answer to the question, “Why are we building this workflow and what issues will it resolve?”

Common examples of DAM-related goals include:

  • Improving asset organization
  • Enhancing collaboration among staff
  • Facilitating public access to digital collections
  • Ensuring proper rights management
  • Bolstering research and educational resources

Having an overall goal for your DAM workflows—including the project scope and expected deliverables—allows project leads and their teams to build processes toward firm objectives.


Processes are the steps and actions taken by your DAM team to move a digital asset through its workflow. Before kicking off your building project, you should finalize:

  • Which digital assets will be involved (media types, number of assets, where they originate)
  • Who is participating in the workflow project and what are their roles
  • What software and equipment are needed and do the required personnel have access (logins, security permissions, etc.)
  • Documented outcomes, including evidence to demonstrate step-by-step achievability
  • Project management documentation for building and executing the DAM workflow, including lists of workflow activities, best practices, and standards and specifications (see Step 5 for details)

Most museum DAM workflows are collaborative, incorporating the staff involved in managing and curating digital assets, such as catalogers, archivists, curators, educators, and other stakeholders.

As a result, airtight version control and approval processes for changes or additions to digital assets are required.

Step 4: Decide what museum software, technology, and resources are needed

Successful DAM workflows rely on having the necessary software and equipment, along with a knowledgeable team to effectively deploy them.

Most workflows depend on a combination of the following:

  1. Collections management system (CMS)
  2. Digital asset management system (DAMS)
  3. Digitization equipment
  4. Digitization software
  5. User training to fill knowledge gaps

Having a CMS and a DAMS is essential to museum digital asset management, while other software and resources required varies on a case-by-case basis for institutions.

It’s recommended to implement systems made to deploy together—like TMS Collections and TMS Media Studio, which share a database—to avoid the pitfalls of third-party integrations and allow for easier, cost-saving DAM activities.

During this initial auditing stage, ask yourself these key questions to determine your needs:

  • What existing software and equipment can we leverage?
  • Will the institution need to implement or upgrade any software and/or equipment?
  • Does our DAMS deliver the functionality we require?
  • Do our project lead and team have the necessary skills? Is additional training required?
  • Can our institutional budget support this project? Is supplementary funding needed (via applying for a museum grant)?

Step 5: Define the specifications and standards

Now it’s time to get specific. To ensure your digital assets are handled with consistency, you need to outline the parameters of their care, management, and review once ingested into the DAMS.

Specifications and standards for naming, metadata, and storage will vary by institution. As a starting point, you can begin by defining the items below:

  • File types and specifications (size, resolution)
  • File naming protocols
  • Standards for asset metadata
  • Storing conventions and access control (folder hierarchies, location in DAMS)
  • Backup schedule and structure
Standardizing metadata

Consistent metadata is crucial for effective search and retrieval.

During this stage, develop a standardized set of metadata for all digital assets. Be sure to include information such as artist, date of creation, description, historical context, keywords, and any other relevant details.

Step 6: Build and test the DAM workflow

Finally, you arrive at the most important stage—building and testing your museum’s DAM workflow.

Construction should account for bringing together every process outlined in Step 3.

Once built, the workflow must be tested to confirm your outcomes (from Step 3), while following the parameters specified in Step 5 for DAMS usage. Testing should be performed with all relevant asset types and scenarios the workflow will support.

During testing, it may help to pose these questions to yourself and your project team:

  • Do any steps need to be refined or rethought?
  • Is our DAM workflow resulting in orphaned stages or bottlenecks?
  • Are we meeting our anticipated timelines?
  • Is our software and equipment performing as expected?
  • Does the project team feel confident in carrying out the workflow?
  • Were our predicted outcomes correct and feasible?

If the workflow meets expectations, you can proceed to finalizing its implementation at your museum. Otherwise, more troubleshooting and revisions are required first.

Pre-requisites for success

Beyond the testing stage, a few additional precautions can help safeguard your workflow’s success, both now and into the future.

Team buy-in

For workflow longevity, everyone must commit to upholding these new processes. The involved teams and departments need to recognize the value of their participation, understand their individual role(s), and have a stake in the project’s collective success.

Establish clear responsibility within the DAM workflow and ensure adequate user training beforehand to strengthen buy-in from staff.

After implementation, collect feedback on a scheduled basis to ensure your DAMS users are confident and comfortable adhering to these new processes.

Clear ownership and processes

Instill strong communication and accountability early on. From the get-go, workflow participants should be encouraged to take ownership of their roles and associated tasks.

Regular project meetings—both before, during, and after the workflow implementation—can help keep everyone on track. Check-ins offer a valuable venue for asking questions and talking through any roadblocks or concerns.

Meanwhile, the project manager must also provide clear documentation and instructions, detailing every aspect of the DAM workflow. These files should be kept in a centralized location for easy access and reference.

Using a suitable DAMS

Not all digital asset management systems are created equal. Relying on a DAMS that wasn’t developed for museums can result in lost time, faulty processes, and staff frustration, as it lacks the industry-specific features and functionality.

If your institution is without a DAMS—or using a generalized third-party solution—it’s worth considering a DAMS meant to support heritage spaces and professionals.

Build better workflows with TMS Media Studio

Made for collections, TMS Media Studio is the ideal DAMS for creating and managing your digital asset workflows. Boost your museum’s DAM strategy by leveraging the robust, in-product workflows in TMS Media Studio or building and customizing your own.

TMS Media Studio also shares its database with TMS Collections, the industry-leading CMS by Gallery Systems. Enjoy seamless data syncing and management. No third-party integration needed.

Ready to learn more? Fill in our contact form for a shift response. Or if already a client, you may reach out to your Account Manager about TMS Media Studio.