Henry Stewart Events (HSE) has opened registration for its 2023 conference on Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Technology in Museums, taking place online on February 9th. 

This is HSE’s third DAM and Museums conference, spanning a global community of 60 countries, and featuring delegates from all around the world. Representatives from museums — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MIT Museum, and Getty Research Institute — will be in attendance, with speakers covering topics on creating phygital experiences for visitors, DAM, and incorporating VR/AR into exhibitions. 

Registration for the conference is open on HSE’s website. 

Jing Culture & Crypto caught up with DEI Metadata Consultant, Art Writer, and DAM speaker Sharon Mizota to discuss how she helps museums, archives, and media organizations improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts using metadata. 

What is the mission of HSE’s DAM conference and how is it being achieved? What does their work means to you as speakers and professionals in the museum space?

In the museum space, DAM is a way to extend the reach of your collections beyond the museum walls. Having good control over your digital assets allows you to find and utilize them quickly and easily so you can share them and get them out there with confidence. This is true whether you are sharing internally for collection functions like condition reporting, or externally in the form of a catalog, souvenir merchandise, or on the web.

In layman’s terms, can you define ‘metadata’? What does a DEI metadata consultant do, at a very high level? 

Simply put, metadata is data about data. It’s the data you use to find the data you need (or want). For example, if you search the Internet for “cats,” the word “cats” is a piece of metadata that describes images of cats, videos of cats, web pages about cats, etc.

As a DEI metadata consultant, I help institutions bring their metadata in line with their goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In particular, I help them make sure that the people represented in their collections are described with respect and accuracy.

I decided to focus on metadata because it is a crucial factor in how we navigate and understand information. It’s the words we use to describe content and the words we use to find it. If those two don’t match up, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for. If some of those words are derogatory or inaccurate, you’re also not going to find what you need.

As much as possible, I want to make sure that people or groups of people who want to see themselves in the historical record can be represented and “found” on their own terms. 

Sharon Mizota, DEI Metadata Consultant & Art Writer

How do you see the potential for digitally-native exhibitions and programming impacting the cultural field, and your work as a metadata consultant moving forwards— whether in creation, commerce, or collaboration?

If anything, digitally native exhibitions and programming make DAM even more important because the DAM system might become the primary repository and access point for the work itself. Traditionally DAMS have been places to house images of or content about works of art that live elsewhere; as works become born-digital, DAMS become the central place where management of artworks takes place.

This is an incredibly important responsibility involving preservation and migration as well as access, and DAMS are becoming more sophisticated to support it.

As for my work, since I focus on such a narrow speciality—DEI-informed metadata—I’m not sure it matters whether an exhibition is physical or digital. I still want to make sure that the artists and people depicted in the works are represented properly. Actually, if the artist is an AI, that raises interesting questions about representation.

I haven’t had to tackle that one yet, but I’m sure it’s coming!

As the world becomes increasingly digital-centric, how and where do you see the generation of inclusive metadata underpinning the work that major corporations like Walt Disney and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are producing?

I think it becomes more crucial. If you have inaccurate or missing metadata, you can’t find the assets you need or describe and present them with confidence. You also can’t provide an accurate picture of your collections and data.

As companies move toward being more “data-driven” — making decisions based on data — it’s more important than ever to have properly sourced, respectful, and accurate metadata. If you don’t know the race, gender, or other identities of the people represented in your DAM, how can you evaluate whether your digital collections are representative of your audiences? It’s easier to feel confident that your assets will appeal to a certain demographic if you have confidence that your metadata reflects the way people describe themselves today.

I have seen organizations get whole new perspectives on their digital assets when they have made the effort to improve the quality of their demographic metadata. This could be as small as getting an image caption right, or as large as making acquisition decisions based on accurate information about their collections and the people associated with them.

It can’t make poor-quality content better or substitute for missing content; of course you need to have good content. But DEI-informed metadata can provide confidence that the information you’re using and representing about that content is true and appropriate. Or, it can warn you away from content that might be problematic.

If you have good quality metadata, you don’t have to spend a lot of time double- and triple-checking information before you publish or release it. It can make your workflows more smooth and efficient, and everyone likes that.

Click here to register for the Henry Stewart Events (HSE) 2023 conference on Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Technology in Museums conference.


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