Enabling Educational use of Museum Multimedia MEMBERSContributeUniversitySchool
How ToLibraryCommitteesDiscussionGovernanceManagementTimelineProjectsDocumentsMembershipContact Us

AMICO Executive Committee

Report to the AMICO Executive Committee
October 1997

David Bearman and Jennifer Trant
Archives & Museum Informatics
Summary of Activities

We devoted 41 days to the establishment of AMICO in October. These were spent preparing background briefing materials and recommendations for the Executive Committee meeting on October 14, meeting with the Technical Operations and Users & Uses Committees, briefing the Museum Computer Network and the Coalition for Networked Information, negotiationing with the Research Libraries Group and the Getty Information Institute, and launching the university test-bed project with a call-for-participation. We also maintained close communications with working members of AMICO, the President of the Board and the AAMD Liaison for Information Technology.

Status Report As of the end of October:
    The Executive Committee has adopted a budget and organizational structure and the organization has been officially announced.
  • Committees are meeting and have scheduled milestones
  • The Research Libraries Group has agreed to serve as a distributor of The AMICO Library for the testbed year (and beyond) and will present a detailed proposal to us by mid-November
  • The Getty Information Institute has agreed to enhance the AMICO data and will present a detailed proposal to us by mid-November
  • The university testbed project has been announced and preliminary inquiries have been received from dozens of universities and educational systems about participation
  • A meeting has been scheduled with senior officers of the Mellon Foundation on November 10 to discuss funding AMICO
  • Discussions have been opened with the Image Directory (Academic Press) and Corbis Inc. about benefits that could be made available to AMICO members which would like to use either of these entities for commercial licensing. Discussions have been scheduled with MacMillan's Dictionary of Art.

Strategic Issues
The announcement of AMICO and our efforts to get it up and running rapidly, have highlighted a number of strategic questions:
  1. Fee Schedules

    In the absence of time or funds for market research, we set a fee structure for individual university licenses based on our sense of what the market would accept (with concurrence of Harry Parker & Max Anderson). Initial reaction from the university community suggests that this fee was considered reasonable for single institutions licensing the Library. However, we have been approached by groups of institutions of one type (consortia of universities), groups of more than one type (state-wide networks of libraries and museums), regions, and whole countries (the UKÕs Joint Information Systems Commission). Some of these scenarios involve both distribution agreements and licenses; some may be bulk license purchases. Presently we are not quoting any fees for these more complex arrangements, as we are still developing strategy. We will propose a schedule in November for Board approval.

  2. MDLC

    During October, a potentially competitive organization, the Museum Digital Licensing Collective (MDLC), was formed. MDLC hopes to receive AAM backing and to conduct a 9-12 month planning exercise with museums (quite similar to that which we conducted with AMICO) in order to shape an organization that they emphasize would "license the digital contents of ALL museums". They conducting an ambitious fundraising effort to support their activities and are presenting themselves as:

    • more inclusive than AMICO - ready to include art, cultural history, and even science museums
    • more beneficial to museums than AMICO, since they are promising to pay members to digitize
    • more beneficial to universities than AMICO, since they are promising free licenses (for a while).

    We believe our best response to the MDLC is to continue doing what we are doing, to reinforce that AMICO membership is open to non-AAMD members, and to try to raise funds to cover our own operational expenses in the initial years. Over the longer term, in order to respond to university requirements, the AMICO Board may need to reconsider the policy of charging a separate license fee to universities when their museums are members of AMICO and to find ways to enable universities which license The AMICO Library to also contribute content.

  3. University Testbed Project

    We have announced availability of The AMICO Library through a University Testbed Project, in 1998-99. The Testbed is structured around a Research Agenda worked out by AMICO Members. The Call for Participation asks interested universities to propose projects that would assist in our enhancing The AMICO Library and services. To get the most from the Testbed, it is essential that we deliver the best Library we can to this first group of users and that we work with the selected universities to learn how to improve our product. We should aim to make sure that all substantial questions which the Board has about AMICO project are being addressed in this research. To that end, weÕll recommend that the Board allow time to discuss the goals and objectives of the Testbed, as well as the selection of the participants, at its first meeting.

  4. New AMICO Members

    Opening AMICO membership to museums (archives, libraries etc.) worldwide raises a number of strategic issues. We must determine a viable rate of growth, and establish an approach to acquiring content beyond North America.

    It is our view that AMICO can double in size next year (from 25 to 50 members). After that it will be able to grow by an absolute maximum of 50 member museums a year. We may, therefore, need to control growth if interest in joining runs high. How best to do this is a matter for board discussion.

    Our response to institutions outside North American wanting to join AMICO needs to be carefully thought through. We know that interest is high and can expect some applicants soon. Before we accept them, we need to determine how foreign content should be incorporated into The AMICO Library. Options include bringing in individual foreign members, and negotiating on a national basis with AMICO-like entities for international trades. The relationships between these models, and possible national licensing options needs to be explored carefully.

  5. Fundraising

    While the prospects for AMICO self-sufficiency after five years are improving as a result of our success with the distributors and potential licensees, the need to have sufficient capital in the next few years to implement AMICO successfully increases as our visibility and expectations rise. We need to structure a proposal to a major foundation to carry the costs of the first phase, so we can get on with actually doing the work. A meeting has been scheduled with the Mellon Foundation, at which we will present a proposal for multi-year, multi-million dollar funding to support AMICO start-up. We are also developing a fund-raising strategy that will link funding needs with grant options on a sector by sector basis.

  6. Data Assembly by AMICO

    Current plans do not detail a strategy for the collation of data contributed by the individual museums into a single coherent format for transmission to the enhancers and distributors. We need both to reserve the budgeted $46,000 for this purpose and move relatively quickly to contract out this work.

  7. Community Relations

    We believe that AMICO's standing in the community, and thus our effectiveness in achieving our goals, would be enhanced significantly by joining several cultural heritage networking organizations. The organizations we would propose having AMICO join are: the National Initiative for Network Cultural Heritage (NINCH), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) and the Consortium for Computer interchange of Museum Information (CIMI).

    Creating a high level advisory board to advise the Executive Committee would provide us with links into the communities we wish to serve. The Advisory Committee we recommend would have approximately 8 members representing the following sectors: Higher Education, K-12 education, Academic Libraries, Public Libraries, Networking, The Arts, Intellectual Property Law, and Foundations. We will be drafting a list of possible nominees for Board consideration, and welcome any input from the Board.

Upcoming Activities
Over the next month (November), we will be:
  • Working with the Technical Operations Committee to define AMICO technical specifications for contribution to the Library.
  • Working with the Users and Uses Committee to finalize evaluation criteria for the responses to the University Testbed Call and to refine the research agenda.
  • Meeting with Ian Jacobs, the Managing Director of MacMillan Reference Ltd, regarding possible collaboration with their Dictionary of Art project.
  • Meeting with OCLC regarding distribution beyond the testbed year.
  • Negotiating with RLG and the GII regarding their proposals for testbed year data distribution and enhancement.
  • Exploring collaboration with OCLC Research and Development Office regarding Dublin Core metadata and the AMICO catalog.
  • Developing a coordinated fundraising strategy and timetable.
  • Drafting a preliminary proposal and meeting with the Mellon Foundation regarding funding the start-up of AMICO.
November 1, 1997

Report to the AMICO Executive Committee
November 97

Report to the AMICO Executive Committee
November 1997

David Bearman and Jennifer Trant
Archives & Museum Informatics

Executive Summary

During November, David Bearman and Jennifer Trant devoted a total 31 days to AMICO. We prepared budgets, schedules, and analytical reports which could serve as the basis for AMICO funding proposals, met with senior officials of the Mellon Foundation to present the case for AMICO, continued negotiations with the Research Libraries Group to serve as an AMICO distributor and with the Getty Information Institute to be an enhancer of AMICO data, and opened discussions with OCLC and the UK JISC as potential future distributors, and with OCLC Research and Development and Macmillan Publishing Ltd. as potential enhancers. In addition, we fielded inquiries from and expressions of interest in the university testbed project from universities, consortia, states and nations. To maintain momentum of the AMICO committees, we drafted a license from members to AMICO, a data dictionary and preliminary image specifications, compiled a profile of the Library for the Testbed Year, briefed teams at two museums and kept up a regular stream of communications with staff of other member institutions. To enhance communication between the AMICO members, we redesigned the web site, which is hosted by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

November Progress Report

Fund Raising:
In preparation for meeting with the Mellon Foundation on November 10, we prepared budgets, schedules, and analytical reports that we expect will serve as the basis for various AMICO funding proposals over the next year. They also present the most complete and up to date projections we have of the development of AMICO, so we have provided them to the Executive Committee and presume they will be made available to the board. On November 10, Mimi Gaudieri, Jennifer Trant and David Bearman met with Richard Ekman (Secretary to the Board) and Richard Quandt (Treasurer) of the Mellon Foundation and made an informal presentation of AMICO and its financial requirements. We had a very exciting talk with them and hope for encouragement to submit a formal proposal when they get back to us, as promised, in mid-December.

Regardless of the outcome, AMICO will require additional funding and we have continued to monitor other opportunities. We presume the executive committee will address the question of what other foundations to approach; Lila Wallace has been suggested. As government funding opportunities arise, we will advise on which ones to pursue and will make applications as instructed.

Most members have now provided the background documentation they have been requested to provide for such grant packages.

Distribution Agreements:
During November we continued negotiations with the Research Libraries Group to serve as the AMICO distributor in the testbed year 1998-99 and as a distributor in future years. We are close to agreement with them on the terms of a three year contract (1998-2001) in which they would:

  1. distribute The AMICO Library during the testbed year with as much functionality as possible

  2. distribute The AMICO Library to higher education in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 with the functionality required by our distributor specifications

  3. serve as the source of The AMICO Library for other distributors and the holder of the backup copy of the library

RLG is making an investment of over $250,000 in the development of software and distribution capabilities for AMICO. They have agreed to charge universities no more for subscriptions (access) to The AMICO Library than we charge in license fees and have agreed to give all AMICO members (to whom we are giving free licenses) free subscriptions to The AMICO Library.

We will present the draft agreement to the executive committee early in December and hope to have a contract drawn up for signature early in January.

We also met with OCLC, the largest distributor of digital data to public libraries in the world (23,000 public library systems) about distributing The AMICO Library to that sector in 1999-2000 - the first year of public availability of the library. They expressed interest and a willingness to present such a plan to their public library advisory committee in March 1998 and to work with AMICO thereafter to draft the appropriate licenses and contract terms. Over the next few months we will begin to formalize this relationship.

In addition, we met in London with representatives of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the Higher Education Funding Councils of the UK which is responsible for maintaining networks and acquiring digital content for all UK higher education. They expressed interest in participating in the testbed and in licensing for all of UK higher education in one contract in future years. We will not take that discussion forward much further before proposing to the Executive Committee economic models for national licenses outside North America.

Data Enhancement:
After meeting with the Getty Information Institute in October, we were awaiting their response to our proposal for them to engage in a collaboration to enhance AMICO data and augment their vocabulary resources. We were disappointed that their response did not offer to undertake any data matching or data processing as part of that enhancement or commit to the updating of the vocabularies to incorporate AMICO terminology in a timely manner. We have, however, accepted their offer of free use of the GII databases and are in the process of negotiating a license. We will explore alternatives for doing this basic data enhancement.

Since the GII proposal leaves us without a means of processing the AMICO member contributions and matching them against other references resources, we've begun discussions with OCLC Research and Development both to engage in some such preprocessing of the AMICO data and to further enhance it by formatting AMICO data as "Dublin Core" conformant metadata in the new RDF format. OCLC R&D has been in the forefront of developing standards for metadata and would like to use The AMICO Library as a pilot demonstration of the power of metadata to assist users in finding resources on the Internet. Since we are very interested in achieving a high profile for The AMICO Library on the Web, this is, of course, of great interest to us as well. These negotiations will be pursued further in December with the aim of reaching a letter of agreement before January.

Very preliminary discussions are underway with KE EMU, a Canadian museum systems vendor, about providing a free license and technical support for AMICO to use their system to read and test the data contributed by member museums. This support would make it possible for AMICO to compile the initial dataset and determine its conformance with the AMICO specification before shipping it to RLG for distribution or to an enhancer. Some such capability will be required but the way we will obtain it has not yet been determined.

Further Data Enhancement/Co-Publishing/Income Generation:
We were approached by the Managing Director of Macmillan (publishers of the 34 volume Grove Dictionary of Art) about the possibility of AMICO collaborating with them in production of a long-planned, but permanently stalled, on-line version of the Grove Dictionary. The fundamental problem they face is that they cannot afford to clear rights for the 15,000 images in the Dictionary and estimate that costs of the licenses alone would exceed $2.3M ($150 average each) if they could get them. They are interested in a one stop deal to get rights by linking to an AMICO screen image (1024 x 768 x 24 bit). Preliminary discussions in London at the end of November suggested that if the Executive Committee is willing to allow such a discussion to go forward, we could probably negotiate:

  1. a sizable up front payment to AMICO

  2. license to the Grove on-line for all AMICO members

  3. integration of the Grove into The AMICO Library (20,000 artists biographies/2,000 line drawings, maps etc. owned by Macmillan) in a co-publishing agreement in which licensees of The AMICO Library would be offered the full integrated Grove/AMICO set for a modest additional subscription fee, with some sharing of income between Macmillan and AMICO.

The benefits of such a co-venture are fairly evident. We are seeking AMICO Board approval because it represents a departure from the solely non-profit aspect of all our other discussions. The timetable and technical requirements of Macmillan fit nicely into those of AMICO and would help to further support some aspects of AMICO's technical development for which we will need to seek support in any case.

University Testbed:
Throughout November we fielded numerous inquiries from universities, consortia and governments interested in participating in the 1998-99 University Testbed project. To date we have expressions of intent to submit proposals from 30 individual schools, 2 Consortia and one National Body [the UK's Joint Information System]. These institutions have proposed a wide variety of extremely exciting research projects from which AMICO will benefit, in addition to agreeing (with very little complaining) to pay the AMICO license fee and additional subscription/access charge to RLG.

University Testbed proposals are due December 15, 1997. The AMICO User and Uses Committee will select about 20 institutions to participate and present their to the Board at its January 28th meeting. We have told the universities we would announce their acceptance by the end of January. We anticipate holding a meeting with participating universities and AMICO members in the spring or early summer of 1998 and subsequent research conferences with users of The AMICO Library in future years.

AMICO Committee Activity:
  • Rights Committee:
    We drafted a license for members to assign rights to AMICO when they contribute their works to The AMICO Library. It is under discussion by the Rights Committee and others on the AMICO Discussion lists. The schedule requires us to have a final version for Board approval in January. This will then go to Legal Counsel for drafting into a formal agreement.

    Minor modifications of the University License
    The Rights Committee still needs to explore how it will approach the issues raised by contemporary artists rights and the drafting of licenses for public library and K-12 use.

    The AMICO Board needs to authorize writing of the legal language versions of the draft licenses for university and museum users and uses. These will need to be ready to offer to testbed year participants in the spring.

  • User and Uses Committee:
    The Users and Uses Committee discussed criteria for selecting participants in the University Testbed. In December and January they will apply these to the proposals we have. The schedule requires them to submit a list of approved proposals for Board review in January.

    Discussions of User needs for both the AMICO public catalogue and the AMICO University Testbed have also begun, in reference to the Public Catalogue Specification, and the Draft AMICO Data Dictionary.

    Almost all AMICO institutions have now described the works that they will contribute in the first year in such a way that we can provide testbed participants with an overview of the contents they will receive. The approximately 23,000 works which have been committed cover the range of world art reasonable well, if thinly. Non-western and twentieth century art are less well represented, but this was expected. Full descriptions of the contributions to The AMICO Library are due by the end of January, 1998.

  • Technical Operations Committee:
    We drafted a data dictionary and preliminary image format and metadata specification for discussion by the Technical Operations Committee. This group needs to make develop final specifications by early January at the latest if the technical staff at member museums are to produce the data required by RLG by the end of March. It is very likely we will need to have a face-to-face meeting of the members of this committee in December in order to reach these agreements.
AMICO Web Site:
The AMICO Web site has been completely overhauled, to reflect the transition from planning the consortium to supporting its acitivites. We have specified a new structure and developed new content; the site has been maintained and updated by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

December Projected Activity:
We do not anticipate opening up any new areas of activity in December since reaching closure on the methods of distribution and enhancement and acquiring final proposals from all potential testbed participants will engage our 'external' attention and our internal activity needs to be directed at arriving at a technical specification for AMICO contributions.

We will work with the Executive Committee in December to determine what briefing materials should be prepared for the full board meeting in January and to develop an agenda for that meeting.

Report to the AMICO Executive Committee
December 1997

David Bearman and Jennifer Trant, Archives & Museum Informatics


Archives & Museum Informatics devoted 12 days to AMICO business in December.


AMICO Internal:
Much of the activity was directed to getting agreement from AMICO Committees to next steps in the processes. We conducted a survey to map data in AMICO members systems to the proposed data dictionary (involving much assistance on our part) and continued our discussion with members of the Technical Committee to establish a specification for the structured data to be contributed to The AMICO Library. We drafted a "License to AMICO" and conducted a discussion with the Rights Committee about its terms. We initiated a discussion by the Users and Uses Committee of the functional requirements for access to The AMICO Library.

External to AMICO:
Our external activity was focused on continuing the discussion of terms for a distribution contract with the Research Libraries Group and continuing discussions about funding with the Mellon Foundation.

We asked several other organizations to make formal proposals to AMICO with respect to activities they had previously expressed interest in: Macmillan Reference Ltd. about possible co-publishing agreements regarding the Grove Dictionary of Art, the Joint Information Steering Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils of the UK about a UK-wide license to AMICO, and commercial vendors about processing AMICO data prior to its transfer to RLG.

We began preparation for the AMICO Executive Committee and Board meetings in January. Agendas were drafted and circulated.

We held fairly extended on-line discussions and one face-to-face conversation with universities considering participation in the test-bed project. We processed the applications received from the universities interested in participating in the test-bed project and posted these to a discussion of the User and Uses Committee.

We held discussions with Don Waters of the National Digital Library Federation on ways for AMICO to collaborate with NDLF, including the possibility of NDLF co-sponsorship of an AMICO University Testbed research conference.

AMICO Status

University Testbed Proposals:
As of the end of December, we have received 18 proposals from about 80 universities to participate in the testbed. The reason for the difference in numbers of proposals and numbers of universities is that several proposals came from groups of universities. According to our agreement with RLG and our own plans for the test-bed, we can accept about 20 university participants, so we will probably limit some of the groups of institutions to having only a few of their university members participate during the first year.

RLG as Distributor:
We have begun discussion of final terms for the contract with the Research Libraries Group to be the distributor for the test-bed year and two years beyond. Under this agreement they will invest a minimum of $250,000 in developing a system to provide access to The AMICO Library and will provide free access to AMICO members.

We have initiated all the Committee decision processes that must be concluded prior to the January Board meeting in order to bring staff decisions forward for board approval.

We have continued the discussions with the Mellon Foundation on possible funding for AMICO as a whole. In the most recent communications, they have asked us to provide assurance that other museums will join AMICO, that software will be developed by distributors, and that universities will license the product. We are confident in our responses to the last two questions, but recognize the need for a "waiting list" of AMICO applicants. We hope the Executive Committee will recruit potential members to join.

We have drafted a letter of intent for the Hitachi Foundation for funding of a portion of the AMICO test-bed project. This is only the first, and far from the most promising, of the outside funding opportunities we will pursue to support specific project activity of AMICO.

Immediate Priorities:
Three issues of crucial importance to AMICO have not yet been attended to and must be completed before the Board meeting in January.

  1. The first of these involve establishing the legal basis for AMICO and its activities. Specifically, we need to have counsel draft:

      - a membership agreement

      - AMICO by-laws

      - a License to AMICO

      - a License from AMICO to Universities

      - a License from AMICO to Museums

  2. AMICO needs to acquire multimedia liability coverage and directors/trustees liability coverage for the testbed year. We are investigating this coverage, which is available from Chubb among others.

  3. We must ensure that AMICO members fulfill their commitments and meet schedules. RLG and the Mellon Foundation are not convinced that AMICO members will contribute the data promised on time and in a usable fashion. We are also a bit nervous because a sizable fraction of the AMICO membership does not participate in the on-line discussions or and has missed deadlines to contribute the information we have requested in the past. The AMICO Executive Committee needs to find a means to ensure that AMICO members fulfill their commitments to AMICO.

Strategic Issues:
In order to obtain funding from the Mellon Foundation, and to convince distributors that we will have a product of value to distribute, we need to be able to demonstrate that museums want to join AMICO and that they are prepared to contribute content to the library. Both the Mellon and RLG would like to see a quite a few new members wanting to join AMICO after the January AAMD meeting in order to give them the confidence to proceed.

We believe that both for existing members to perceive a benefit and for new members to want to join, will require that AMICO provide concrete benefits to those who have taken the risk of joining. We also suspect that the risk of losing such benefits may be the strongest means available to AMICO to ensure that members meet their commitment to the Consortium. We see these benefits taking the form of access to better content and assistance in compiling and validating their data. While the AMICO staff will ultimately provide this kind of assistance, it will probably take several years before members believe that this has substantial value. There are two opportunities on our current horizon to demonstrate the benefits of AMICO Membership:

  • negotiations with Macmillan Reference Ltd. could result in all members of AMICO having access to the Grove Dictionary of Art and all Founding Members of AMICO receiving a share of royalties . Financing from a licensing opportunity, which was not available to individual AMICO members, would enable AMICO to establish support structures for members immediately rather than in two years as planned.

  • negotiations with the Joint Information Steering Committee in the UK towards the end of providing all UK Higher Education institutions with access to AMICO and developing software for enhanced access to The AMICO Library, could ensure licensing income for AMICO in a deal that also gets The AMICO Library positioned in Europe as the beginning of a major push for European content and access.

Previously Reported Issues:
We have considered the response by the GII to our request that they work with us to extend their vocabulary resources and incorporate AMICO data. In the light of their unwillingness to commit to any concrete support for data matching or provide specific time frames for turning data around even if we invested in the matching process, we recommend that AMICO remove plans to use the GII vocabularies from its critical path.

As reported in October, current plans do not detail how the data contributed by member museums will be collated into a single coherent format for transmission to the distributors. We have taken initial steps of determining the costs of this service (budgeted at $46,000) and will need to sign contracts by the end of January.

We continue to believe that AMICO's standing in the community would be enhanced by joining several cultural heritage networking organizations and recruiting a high level advisory board to advise the Executive Committee. The organizations we would propose having AMICO join are: the National Initiative for Network Cultural Heritage (NINCH), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) and the Consortium for Computer interchange of Museum Information (CIMI).

Over the first three months of its operations, AMICO expenses are almost exactly on budget. We expect other operational costs for the remaining nine months to be on budget as well. Major areas of concern are:

  • obtaining pro-bono legal help to draft the agreements required to establish AMICO properly

  • abandoning most data enhancement in the absence of assistance from the GII

AMICO income projections for 1997/98 may be low. While we will bring in $10,000 more income from members than was projected (c.$94,000 as opposed to $84,000), we are unlikely to obtain the scheduled $120,000 in outside funding budgeted this fiscal year. The timing of grant proposal cycles is such that none of the grant funding proposals is likely to be successful in this fiscal year. [On the other hand, if the discussions with the Mellon Foundation are successful, they will bring in funding this fiscal year and beyond which is adequate to pay all of AMICO's budgeted shortfalls.]

In the approved AMICO budgets, we projected a spring meeting with university testbed participants and AMICO members that would break even in its costs. While this has no budgetary consequences, we are still holding off on organizing the meeting in order to assess whether the effort that would be involved would be worth the benefits we hope would accrue. We anticipate that this decision will be made in February, after discussions with the accepted university test-bed participants.

Last modified on