The Value in The Vault

On Thursday I attended The Value in The Vault a panel discussion organized by NYC Media Lab. The Lab is a collaboration between the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Columbia University, and New York University and works to connect academia to startups in order to advance technology through research and incentivize scholarly innovation. They organize several events per year in the NYC tech community, but this panel was highly relevant to the future of libraries.

The panel was made up mostly of commercial media companies with innovative and valuable archives and retrieval methods. Panelists included:

  • Jim Chou, CTO at Shutterstock
  • Marc Frons, CIO at The New York Times
  • Mona Jimenez, Associate Arts Professor; Associate Director, Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program at NYU Tisch
  • Owen Rambow, Co-Chair, New Media Center, Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia University
  • Dirk Van Dall, VP, Multimedia Technology Development at Major League Baseball Advanced Media

All of the panelists had sound justifications for retaining and maximizing access to their archives. Shutterstock was doing particularly specialized things with search and recommendation. The site, which offers a massive repository of stock images and videos for purchase, has targeted facets to help consumers find unique or random photos and, like Google Images, has added metadata-based grouping for recommendation and filtering by things like color and photo component.

I was also very intrigued by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which developed a proprietary system to live-record baseball-specific metadata during games for targeted retrieval. MLBAM, unlike most other professional athletic associations, works closely with all teams in the league to present a unified social media presence and a quality, centralized archive of games.

It’s certainly different to maintain monetized archives that are unlikely to ever integrate with other institutions, but the streamlined and specialized metadata and search strategies developed by these companies are quite innovative. It’s particularly impressive to see such a complex and fully-realized system for authority control in major league baseball. It seems like much of the early efforts of archival digitization in libraries focused on archives as distributed parts of a single feasible whole, but as more libraries and cultural institutions move their archival repositories online, it will be interesting to see how these standards develop and stratify.