Digital Archive Services (DASE) at UT Austin
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Digital Archive Services (DASE) is a web-based application for managing digital images, sound files, video, documents, and web resources. In addition to the search interface and built-in presentation tools, DASE includes a set of simple, dynamic web services on top of which new applications can be built. Developed by Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services at UT Austin, the initial goal for DASE was to provide a way for faculty members to get web-based access to image collections (both physical and digital) scattered around departments within the College of Liberal Arts. As we worked through specific issues regarding metadata schemes and desired search, browse, and save functionality, it became clear that other more general issues related to the management of digital content could be addressed as well. Every attempt was made to keep the DASE application architecture and data model as simple as possible. Towards that end, and given the diversity of collections involved, we allowed each collection to define its own set of metadata attributes. Attributes are simply flagged as 'searchable' (or not), thus allowing efficient cross-collection searching. For more fine-tuned searching, users can go to an individual collection and quickly and easily browse all of the available attributes. For those instances when a standard metadata schema IS necessary for proper interoperability with other systems, as in the case of RSS feeds, we simply "map" the attributes in the collection to the appropriate attributes in the RSS specification. Thus, collections that include audio or video files (as many now do) have a built-in means to provide "podcasting" functionality. In addition, by defining a simple set of web services (both RSS feeds and DASE-specific XML-over-HTTP) we have found new uses for DASE collections. DASE can easily serve the functions of a database-in-a-box for web site developers who would like to add simple dynamic capabilities to media-rich web sites. In working on the DASE project, we have seen time and again the same questions arising: How do we get our digital content on the web so as to share it with students and colleagues? How do we manage the huge amount of new content being produced and discovered every day? How do we maximize the opportunities for "repurposing" our content? How to we organize and preserve our digital assets? All of these are questions that we have attempted to address with DASE. While DASE does not pretend to provide a single comprehensive solution, it does provide solutions to a myriad of immediate problems and minimizes the risk involved in two ways: One, DASE is simple and offers a low barrier to entry. The technologies are all free and open source, and therefore can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. Even aside from the actual DASE application, the principles and architecture underlying DASE can be applied wholesale or in parts to address the challenges of content management. Two, DASE is based on well-defined and open standards and exposes a clear and transparent architecture. Moving from DASE to some other system in the future should be a very simple and straight-forward process.