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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 24, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 8
In New System, Images and Documents Are a Touch Away

Digital Media Manager gives Johns Hopkins users Web-based access, storage

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Paulette Sackett said her department used to be swamped in paper.

Sackett, communications coordinator for the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the School of Medicine, said that up until two years ago, the center's faculty and staff relied on a paper system that, while reliable, was slow, cumbersome and costly. Each week, she said, thousands of files had to be printed out, photocopied and often hand delivered. The center's researchers, in order to work remotely, would often take home briefcases bursting at the seams with documents and images.

And then came the relocation. "A few years ago, we moved into the Broadway Research Building," Sackett said. "When we saw the facilities we had, one thing became clear: We had relatively no file space."

The center had to find a way to reduce its files, and it began looking into paperless methods. Specifically, the center wanted a system in which staff and faculty could share, store and retrieve files whether they were at work, at home or abroad.

The search ended right at Johns Hopkins.

Today, the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center is one of numerous departments and offices using Johns Hopkins' Digital Media Manager to electronically store and utilize thousands of documents, images and other electronic files.

More than just a repository, DMM is an interactive tool that allows subscribers and nonsubscribers alike to take advantage of the system's archives and functionality.

The newspaper you are reading, for example, uses the system to receive photos from its photographers, who upload them from a studio five miles away, and also to send the completed paper in minutes to its printing plant, located an hour's drive away by car. Another subscriber, the university's Office of News and Information, uses DMM to provide faculty photographs to reporters across the country.

Sackett says that DMM has allowed her center to save staff time and to reduce paper by 600,000 sheets per year. In addition, the center's researchers now have access to their files from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.

"[The Digital Media Manager] has made it a lot easier to manage our paper documents and images," she said. "We potentially could be 100 percent paperless by using this system. Right now we're about 80 percent there, as we still need a few more people to buy in."

The Johns Hopkins Digital Media Manager is an institutionswide digital archive for photos, desktop publishing documents, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, audio, video — virtually any digital "asset" that Johns Hopkins departments need to preserve, retrieve, use or share. All a user needs is an Internet connection and a Web browser.

The system allows each member department to establish a collection of digital files, define its users and establish what those users can do within the system. It currently houses nearly 25,000 files, mostly images, whether an autumnal shot of Homewood's Gilman Hall taken for an admissions brochure or a high-resolution picture of a brain cell used by a medical researcher.

Glenn Small, assistant director of the Office of News and Information and manager of DMM, said that one current underused aspect of DMM is its work flow capability, wherein a group of people can share files on a project and even send versions around for approval, disapproval or comments.

"This functionality could be used by creative folks like graphic artists or by collaborative research groups or even our real estate people, say when they are working on a new building project and need to share a lot of project sketches," Small said.

One important and essential feature of the system, he said, is its security.

"Not just anyone can get to see what you've put in there," he said. "In fact, the system allows us to easily customize various user access levels so that we can have a catalog of images open to anyone to browse — but not edit, delete, download or upload — or we could create a special collection and share that with only certain users that the client designates."

The concept of electronic management arose out of a universitywide survey that showed there was strong interest in a system that would help manage photographs and other files. A coalition of 11 departments and offices embarked in May 2003 on a six-month pilot program to test the feasibility of a Web-based system that could be used to store and retrieve all manner of digital media.

The successful pilot project led to the purchase of the WebWare application, which runs on secure Johns Hopkins servers located in East Baltimore and managed by IT@JH staff. The application, selected after presentations by numerous providers, is used by the National Football League, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Boeing, Charles Schwab and other major entities.

The Digital Media Manager is Mac- and PC-compatible, does not require specialized software and handles both large and varied file types.

Users can find files by keyword searches or by browsing through a directory. Search results are returned as thumbnail previews; by clicking on the thumbnail, users can see a larger image and read file information.

Other features include instant conversion of image assets into a variety of sizes and compression file formats, such as a JPEG, GIF or TIF; video and audio support; version tracking; and security flexibility. For example, an administrator who wants to control the use of a photograph can have it watermarked or can restrict access so that the potential user has to contact him or the photographer.

Subscribers to DMM pay an annual fee based on the group's usage and storage needs.

Nonsubscribers can log in as a guest and browse the collections that are designated as public. If a guest finds something he likes, he can contact the department that posted the file to request permission to use the material. Digital Media Manager is located at

To log in as a guest, click on "AMA Browser." The username and password are both "guest1."

For more information on Digital Media Manager, contact Glenn Small at or Jim Johns at


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