Executive  summaryChapter1Chapter2Chapter3


While all of the museums used computer databases for documentation of their collections (Collections Management Systems), each museum started the project with varying degrees of digital image experience.


The Fowler Museum is part of the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA, which is heavily committed to computerization and digital imaging. The museum has been experimenting with digital image capture since 1993.

George Eastman House

The George Eastman House is a museum of film and photography with an extensive Collections Management database. They had experience with making searchable data and images available in a kiosk via videodisc, but generally had little experience working with digital images.


The Harvard University Art Museums consist of three museums: the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Fogg Art Museum, with a total of eight curatorial departments. At the start of MESL, the museum had scanned approximately 10% of its images to add to a new database, and had experimented with different methods of image capture.


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was the least technically experienced museum of the group. They had no prior experience with digital imaging, and the staff did not even have email accounts at the start of the project. However, the staff was enthusiastic about participating in MESL. Their long-range plan included digitization of the entire collection of works on paper and eventually digitizing the rest of the permanent collection.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art had experience with digitizing, color correcting, and documenting 2,600 works of American art for a digital imaging system that works in conjunction with their collections management system. They own a high-resolution scanner, optical storage system, and database/image server. Their systems are connected on a network, and they worked with IBM Research to advance their digital imaging processes.

National Museum of American Art

The National Museum of American Art houses the largest collection of American Art in the world. The museum had extensive experience with digital projects, and was already in the process of digitizing its collection at the start of the MESL project (2,000, at a rate of 100 per week). The digital images were used for multiple purposes: internal access via their LAN, multimedia productions, external access via the Internet, and print publishing.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress joined the MESL project late, and represents a different type of institution from the other museums. They had already embarked on an ambitious project to digitize extensive portions of their collections and provide access via the Internet, and their technical skills were already well practiced by the time of the MESL project. They did not interact with the universities when making their content selections. The Library's main interest in joining the MESL project was to learn more about site licensing for educational purposes. Specific economic data from the Library of Congress are not included in this report because the Library did not report on the number of hours spent in each of the cost centers.

Back to Chapter 2


The Cost of Digital Image Distribution:
The Social and Economic Implications of
the Production, Distribution, and Usage of Image Data

By Howard Besser & Robert Yamashita