NHM internship

Last week, I began an exciting virtual internship as a Digital Asset Management Intern with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM).  I’ll be using their digital asset management system, Extensis, to add metadata to images so that they can be used by the museum’s Marketing and Creative Services Department.  I feel fortunate to have this internship, as it’s a great opportunity to learn more about digital asset management, cataloging, thesauri, and how to apply metadata.  I’ll be given a set of related images to add metadata to, such as photographer, event, and other keywords.  The NHM maintains a controlled vocabulary for its DAM system, and I can suggest terms to add.

NHM Age of Mammals OpeningSource

I had a great first phone call with my site supervisor the other day.  She explained her management style (not a micromanager and she’s leaving it up to me to contact her when I need to!) and her needs. I was relieved to learn that she didn’t have any quotas for processing images, and that there is no standard length of time to process a set of photographs.  I also asked her to let me know if I wasn’t moving as quickly as she hoped, as I want to make sure that I meet her expectations.

After the call, I received my first data set of over 150 images.  I spent over three hours beginning to catalog each photo and only got through about 10!  Part of this was learning the DAM system and double checking my work, and part of it was spending a lot of time learning the controlled vocabulary and understanding which of the terms were applicable to the data set I’m working on.

I tried again the next day and was able to make it through 15 images in the same amount of time.  It’s a start.  I sent her some questions on clarifying some of the keywords on the controlled vocabulary and specific images.  I’m sort of proud to say that from my questions, she added three new terms to the controlled vocabulary, saying one of them was excellent, and agreed that two were redundant and removed one of them.  Only about 25 pictures in and I already feel that I am making a good contribution!

I hit a little snag later on in the week, when I couldn’t get into the system because of an error message that I finally figured out was on my end.  I managed to fix it and was able to get back in to the database.  I think IT issues are just one of the challenges I’ll encounter working virtually.

Now, I’m just trying to figure out the best way to allocate my time and get into a rhythm of working.  I really like and appreciate the trust that she is putting in me that the work will get done without regularly scheduled check-ins, and I feel comfortable with not having check-ins because I know she’ll be very responsive to any questions I have.  However, less accountability means I have to make sure I stay on track and dedicate a specific amount of time each day to working on the internship.  I read a great tip on the virtual internship blog about keeping a daily log of activities.  Because I’ll be doing essentially the same thing all semester – cataloging images – keeping a daily log will be a really helpful way of having a tangible sense of what I have accomplished, which would really hard to see otherwise.

Hours worked: 8 1/2 hours


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