spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer
AMICO Logo Art Museum Image Consortium: enabling educational use of museum multimedia
JoinBenefitsMembersAMICO LibraryContentsTrialSubscribeBenefitsSubscribersUseSchoolsUniversitiesMuseumsDistributespacerAboutDocumentsSearchContactspacer

AMICO Founding Report

Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO)
Meeting Report
Minneapolis June 3-4, 1997


The AMICO meeting opened on the morning of June 3rd by Maxwell Anderson who provided an update on AMICO activities, including the progress made since March and reported on recent progress of the Art Museum Network.

Max then led an open discussion of AMICO goals and barriers to forming AMICO. Jennifer Trant and David Bearman recorded contributions made by members of the group under the headings of goals and barriers. After a full morning of discussion, the 56 points raised were organized into categories following the topics of the four draft agreements. Lead questions clustered the major issues raised in the discussion, as follows:

A. Founding The Consortium

  1. What does AMICO enable that we can't do ourselves?
    1. Leverage with vendors
    2. Cooperation with artists rights organizations
    3. Access to funding
    4. Assist members to improve their own infrastructure and practices
    5. Provide members access to the AMICO library and products

  2. How can we cooperate with each other?
    1. Overcome different levels of expertise
    2. Reduce risks and costs by collective decision-making
    3. Balance interests of large and small museums
    4. Provide equitable terms of membership

  3. How can AMICO assist existing operations?
    1. Help new and potential members
    2. Demonstrate value of collective activity and delivery of information

B. Defining Licenses and Products

  1. How do we define products that are useful to a broad community of educators?
    1. Who makes the products?
    2. What role does museum staff play?
    3. How is information structured to have maximum educational value?
    4. Can we help educational institutions avoid costs of digitizing and clearing rights?

  2. How do we define license terms?
    1. Keep educational mission in mind, in defining license terms and fees charged
    2. Ease administration
    3. Preserve fair use
    4. Develop model licenses

  3. How do we define new products and services and their uses in new markets?

C. Business Case and Strategic Plan

  1. What is the most effective form and structure of the Consortium?
    1. Limit liability
    2. Reward content creation
    3. Distinguish educational from commercial
    4. Develop appropriate product definitions
    5. Accommodate all sizes of museums

  2. What does it cost?
    1. Limit cost of administration
    2. Define level of financial commitment from members
    3. Identify sources of income
    4. Project financial requirements over medium term

  3. How can we do business with each other?
    1. Design organization so that members get pay-off
    2. Stage commitment to enable institutional agreement
    3. Avoid information as a commodity
    4. Take care when considering relicensing museum products

D. Standards

  1. What guidance on standards can we give in the short-term?
    1. Use existing standards for image and text
    2. Keep long term perspective
    3. Provide ready solutions we can use - what guidance can we provide today?
    4. Find commonality in what we are already doing
    5. Whose already done it?

  2. What can we do to avoid rigid solutions and proprietary systems?
    1. Recognize that image quality standards are changing
    2. Architectural strategies are needed for implementation
    3. Security standards

  3. How can we justify the effort necessary to structure information?
    1. Relationship with and enhancement of present operations
    2. Broader standards - Beyond Information Technology
    3. What role could a demo, prototype or pilot play?
    4. What relationship should AMICO have with existing and evolving standards and standards bodies?


In the afternoon, breakout groups were convened to discuss these issues. They reported their discussions to the group as a whole. Fuller discussion followed, and the following consensus was reached:

A. Forming a Collaborative


The primary purpose of focus of the Consortium should be on the educational mission of museums - both in terms of providing rich and authoritative content to educational users and in relation to enhancing the educational programs and capabilities of its members. A mission statement reflecting these values was adopted:

AMICO's Mission

The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) is a non-profit corporation formed by North American Art Museums to provide educational access to and delivery of cultural heritage information by creating, maintaining and licensing a collective digital library of images and documentation of works in their collections.

Participating in AMICO would be beneficial for all kinds of museums, large and small. Consortial activity should provide an opportunity for members to improve their own infrastructure and practices. Collective decision-making should reduce the risk for individual museums. The group affirmed their readiness to work together and felt that the

Future Tasks and Questions

  • A short statement of the purposes and benefits of AMICO is needed to help meeting attendees explain the organization within their museums. [This will be drafted by David and Jennifer.]
  • Terms of membership need to be re-assessed based on the educational focus outlined. Revisions to the draft agreements will be proposed.
  • Access to the AMICO Library by individual museum members is desirable. A license agreement should be drafted to frame this. This is a task for the future Consortium.
  • An explicit statement of the costs of participating in this stage of forming a consortium - including probable participation in up to three meetings of two days duration in the next six months and payment of a base level of membership dues - was needed for museum directors to understand the stakes. This will be included in the draft agreement to form a consortium that will be presented to Director‚s for signature following the next meeting.

B. Products and Licenses


What AMICO licenses should be defined by its governing board. Offerings could be made up of contributions by individual museums, enhanced with value added by AMICO, or distributors such as those which can reach the university community.

AMICO's user-base should be defined to include the college and university communities as well as other educational markets, particularly schools (K-12) and home schooling. Continuing education, each museums' own educational programs, and public library access should be kept in mind when product development is undertaken by the Consortium.

Structuring of information should reflect the requirements of the users of the AMICO Library. User needs should be assessed, based on polls, focus groups, studies and research. Search engines and front ends should be flexible to reflect the range of users.

Licenses offered by AMICO should reflect our values and educational mission in their terms and fees. Fair use should be acknowledged. Model licenses should be developed, not just for AMICO and universities, but for member institutions to use, for home markets, and for public libraries. Licenses should consider how to enforce security.

Future Tasks and Questions

  • AMICO should make its priority to provide sample product outlines by September 1997.
  • A university educational prototype/test bed should be explored to learn more about user needs.
  • The importance of formulating a license for members of AMICO and other museum licensees was acknowledged.

C. Strategic Planning


Educational goals should be the prime motivation for joining AMICO. The sum of support and revenues received by AMICO should be devoted to the costs of achieving our collective educational mission. Benefits should be returned to members primarily in the form of services and the maintenance of a collective forum for developing best practices. Fees should be set at a level to support these activities but should be seen as reasonable to users. Participants recognized that income will increase over time, and felt that AMICO may should be enabled to borrow or raise funds to cover its start-up expenses.

AMICO's operational costs should be largely attributable to building the database, distributing the content, creating indexes and software to enhance the collective library, developing licenses and products to enable educational uses, and clearing rights with holders. It was agreed that administrative costs should be kept to a minimum.

The costs to museums participating in AMICO will include:

    1. dues (not to cover the administrative costs of the organization but to ensure that participants recognize its value)
    2. staff participation (time and travel) in working groups on topics such as Standards and Technologies, Products and Licensing, and Governance (such as those created at this meeting)
    3. preparation of contributed data and its upkeep (including rights clearance, data preparation, photography and digital data), and
    4. delivery of contributed data to AMICO conforming to standards adopted by the members.

The costs for the administration of AMICO will include:

    1. construction of a joint database
    2. distribution of content to licensees/distributors
    3. creation of the central catalog, including the development of enhanced indexing tools
    4. the development of new licenses and products
    5. training and support for members
    6. negotiation with rightsholder agencies on behalf of AMICO members

Pricing models adopted by AMICO should be seen as reasonable on the part of each of its user communities.

It was agreed that a model which enabled participation by AAMD museums of all sizes and degrees of readiness, while not penalizing those unable to contribute from the outset, should be developed. Dues proportional to size and expectations proportional to the starting point of the member were accepted as a basis for such a set of terms.

The AMICO Board will reassess income allocation models at a 2-3 year frequency.

Future Tasks and Questions

  • The Agreement to form a Consortium should be revised focusing on educational objectives.
  • Once the Consortium is founded, the AMICO Board will define a budget and program based on income projections and fundraising activities.
  • The level of services to be offered to AMICO members need to be further defined.
  • Different levels of participation and membership in the Consortium will be defined, to enable the participation of a broad range of AAMD institutions.

D. Standards

In addition to the working group discussion on the first day, a full session was devoted to standards on day two of the meeting. In consequence, and because the draft agreement on standards was on the table for the first time, this area was discussed in greater depth. This summary synthesizes the results of the two discussions.


Open standards should inform AMICO's offerings. These should incorporate the community standards of the art and museum community as well as the education and IT communities. Standards should be subject to regular review.

Standards should be based on needs. They should support AMICO functions, be grounded in consultation with museum and university educators, and be subject to monitoring and feedback. Needs should include multilinguality, and user feedback. Collaboration with vendors should be pursued to achieve these ends. No unnecessary requirements should be imposed by standardization. AMICO should make conformance as easy as possible for members, including by developing or distributing tools.

Members should be given incentives for selection of content meeting AMICO needs and for provision of deep documentation. Options should be explored for AMICO's central support for acquisition of digital source material by its members.

AMICO should maintain a searchable catalog with links back to member sites. Structured data content standards should assume the CDWA as a framework, apply the CIDOC data model as possible, include CIMI access points, and rights management data. The full range of museum documentation should be accommodated, over the long term. For the initial offering, however, not all complexity will be accommodated. Mark--up mechanisms which preserve meaning (SGML or XML, not HTML) should be incorporated.

Data types distributed initially will include text, image, 3-D and other vector models, video and sound; multimedia should not be included in the short-term

Some data standardization could be performed centrally, including data value enhancement (mapping data values in contributed records to resources such as AAT, ULAN, TGN, LCSH, and LCN where necessary) and data structuring. In addition, central functions should include watermarking, the assignment of a unique object identification and maintenance of a registry of these identifiers, and the provision of secure interchange envelopes.

Best practice guidelines, especially for image capture and emerging areas such as 3-D installations and walk-through exhibition tours should be formulated. Image capture guidelines should address neutral backgrounds, the role of photography as the source for a digital image, framing, cropping, shadows, recommendations about frames, and the documentation of image capture and subsequent corrections, sampling or manipulation. To assist members in image conversion, AMICO should explore a model RFP for imaging services.

Implementing the Standards Framework

Establishing a working suite of standards for AMICO requires choices regarding the nature of the information to be distributed. AMICO members agreed that a standards working group should move quickly to establish base-level contribution standards around an initial offering that would be an encyclopedic reference tool of works of art documented in image and text. No authored multimedia will be included; video and 3-D data may be included.

This first version of the AMICO Library would be licensed for university educational use, including classroom projection and examination of details but not enabling four color printing. A full set of use requirements should be established as a basis for the final standards.

Initial baselines proposed included:

Image Standards


  • Images should be 24 bit.
  • A minimum resolution matrix to support the generation of a set of different image qualities, including a thumbnail, full screen resolution and a zoom-in multiple of screen resolution will be established.

  • Image quality to support high-quality CMYK printing is not necessary.
  • Where possible, AMICO should provide reference color bars for color management and calibration.
  • Consistent color management needs to be investigated.
  • Watermarking research should explore DigimarcÔ and select a single method to be implemented for the AMICO Library
  • Vector data representation standards should be set to allow major practices.
  • Video standards should be adopted to allow major practices.

File Formats

  • Acceptable file formats will include TIFF and lossless JPEG/JFIF. Proprietary formats such as PhotoCDÔ or PhotoshopÔ are unlikely to be acceptable. Further research needs to be conducted into whether FlashPixÔ , PNG and other formats might be acceptable


  • Minimum requirements for image metadata must be established.

Text Standards

  • Tombstone (core) data content standards should be established with reference to the MESL data analysis, RLG's REACH analysis, the Dublin Core, the VRA data standard and CDWA.
  • Access point requirements should be established with reference to the CIMI Access Points, and an analysis of end user requirements.
  • Vocabulary standards (AAT, ULAN, TGN, etc.) should be mapped to these content fields when possible.
  • Minimum data standards for delivery to AMICO and standards for redistribution should be set.

Future Tasks and Questions

Steps to a short-term, but comprehensive, standards framework include completing the surveys of members data and proposing:

Draft Image Standard

    • review image file formats, considering viability of PNG and FlashPix
    • assess color management technologies. Is there a short-term recommendation?
    • reviewing watermarking technologies and make a recommendation for implementation within AMICO
    • propose first working standard for comment, which will become basis for Image acquisition guidelines for AMICO members

Draft Text Standard

    • based on survey of current practice, define a "strawman" text framework
    • review this in light of current metadata standards efforts
    • map into end user requirements
    • propose first working standard for comment

Distribution Architecture

    • propose standards for the medium and method of delivery of contribution to the AMICO Library.
    • propose a "strawman" distribution format for comment by potential licensees


  • In the medium term, and before full deployment, AMICO members need to define and test an architecture, the nature and content of initial offering, the processes for acquiring, delivering, extracting, enhancing, and distributing the data, and means to reward members for delivery of quality documentation.
  • Copyright and other rights management data standards must be set.; explore rights management data requirements with other rights management organizations
  • The question of whether textual data without images should be allowed ought to be explored further.

A "demonstration" was rejected as requiring too much work for too little benefit - in its place a "testbed" was proposed which would solve real problems as part of the development process.

  • The testbed was scheduled to take place in the 1998/99 academic year with university participants. These educational partners could be chosen with a competitive process, which could operate in a similar manner to MESL Call for Participation.


Much of the value of participating in the Consortium could be found in the services that it could offer to its members. These include:

A. Technology Information Services, including "best practice guidelines", "frequently asked questions", standards for data capture, advice on hardware and software, application guidelines, training and research and liaison with developing standards and standards-making bodies.

B. Data Enhancement Services, including data value standardization, the addition of unique identifiers, watermarking of images, subject indexing, metadata augmentation, thesaural explosion of terms in controlled vocabularies, markup of text to SGML, and mapping institutional data to export standards.

C. Catalog Management Services, including creating an integrated, publicly accessible directory with many access points and different interfaces for different users which enables educators to identify works which they have licensed and may use through AMICO and allows the public to seek further rights including commercial use rights from the individual museum members.

D. Rights Management Services, including defining the minimum rights management data requirements, creating searchable rights metadata systems, negotiating rights with individual rights holders and their collectives, writing model licensing agreements, providing a forum for and developing terms of licenses for schools and school districts, museum education departments, and public libraries, and developing and disseminating end-user responsibility training materials.

E. Customer Services, including monitoring and analyzing uses and users, conducting focus groups to identify users needs, and promoting innovative educational uses of museum digital content.

F. Collaborative Partnering, including with technology firms, funding sources, standards organizations, telecommunication providers, and others.

G. Content Development Assistance, including support for contributing to the Library, possibly through thematically based digitization projects.


The meeting concluded with the establishment of an action agenda. Working groups will meet to further the definition reached at this meeting with respect to:

A. Data, Delivery and Distribution (including standards, architectures and the "catalog" design)

B. Member Services (including technology support and collective rights clearance)

C. User Requirements (including definition of product offerings and licenses)

Each group will be charged with developing a detailed outline of AMICO's program in each area. including scope and content of the services offered, and the staffing or support that will be necessary to implement them.


We agreed to meet again in mid-to-late July in Cleveland at the invitation of the Cleveland Museum of Art. There we will finalize the organizational framework and present a plan for formation of AMICO and a draft letter of intent for institutions desiring to be founding members. Following the July meeting, institutions interested in participating in the founding of AMICO will sign a Cooperative Agreement.

Founding AMICO members will name representatives to working groups that will produce a strategic plan with budgets by the end of the third quarter of 1997. AMICO will be formally incorporated by the fourth quarter of 1997. Initial test-bed data collation and distribution will get under way in time for fall 1998 testbed deployment on selected campuses. A full offering of the AMICO Library will be available for open subscription by the 1999 academic year.


In June of 2005, the members of the Art Museum Image Consortium voted to dissolve their collaboration. This site remains online for archival reasons.