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National Gallery of Australia Selects Alfresco to Innovate on their Mission: 'One Place to Discover, Maintain and Share Digital Content'

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is the national art museum of Australia as well as the largest museum in the country, holding more than 175,000 works of art. It was established in 1967 by the Australian government as a national public art museum.


In order to inspire new customer engagement with the collection, and as cultural attitudes towards technology continue to evolve, NGA sought to innovate with technology to enable staff members to have access to the 98% of the collection that is never available to be displayed. At the heart of this innovation is the delivery of digital, collection-related content in a way that both enhances traditional, on-premises experiences, and drives outreach to new ‘virtual’ visitors online.

The technology innovation challenges were aligned with the following objectives set through the Digital Asset Management project at NGA. The Project was born out of the Digital Art Education and Access Initiative, part of the NGA’s strategic plan, identified to deliver on 2 key objectives:

  1. Preserve, protect and manage the National Art Collection: One of the identified benefits of a Digital Asset Management solution is to reduce wear and tear on the Gallery’s valuable collection. Moving art in and out of storage increases the risk of damage, and with one of the largest collections of delicate prints and drawings, even sunlight can pose a damage risk. Digitising these works of art enables them to be viewed without exposing them to these risks.
  2. Increase access to the National Art Collection locally, nationally and internationally: Once digitised, content becomes accessible. It can be grouped into collections, in which derivatives of various resolutions are automatically generated, including lower resolution copies for the Internet, social media and device viewing, as well as high-resolution versions for print media.

Delivering on these objectives required a powerful digital asset management system that was able to deliver robust and easily configurable workflows as well as integrate into the existing collection system to reuse the existing metadata. This system needed to scale to support the 34TB of existing digital assets, as well as the 50TB of additional assets that were likely to be generated in the first 18 months.

After an extensive EOI and RFT process, the National Gallery selected Lateral Minds, an experienced Sydney based ECM consultancy to deliver the solution, based on Lateral Minds’ Digital Media Centre, an application powered by the Alfresco One ECM Platform.



NGA partnered with Lateral Minds and they used a Staged Methodology to undertake the project, splitting it into several iterative stages that built upon each previous one, to reduce the overall complexity, risk and cost of the solution. This started with a three month Design Stage involving extensive consultative workshops to elicit the requirements of the system and understand the inefficiencies of the current process. The output of this stage was a detailed solution design and Implementation plan that was signed off by the Project board. Following the Design stage, Lateral Minds began to configure and implement the system, ensuring there were regular review points for both the Project team and the Project Board to see the system evolve, and provide the opportunity to incorporate regular feedback into the evolving system.

This approach, of ensuring key stakeholders could see the system and their input evolving, promoted confidence in the new system and has been so successful that the National Gallery of Australia have adopted Lateral Minds’ project methodology as a template for future projects.

Now the Gallery has one place to look for digital assets and a comprehensive governed workflow process to ensure they are representative of the work of art and approved for use. This is the foundation project. This foundation is being enhanced by several sub-
projects, such as an iPad/Tablet interface for Meeting management, a workflow-governed process for publishing Works of Art and their Metadata across Social Media and the Internet and a deeper dive into the use of Rights Management metadata to provide Self-Service and control for the release of assets.

The System consists of Lateral Minds’ browser-based, Digital Media Centre application running on Alfresco One, an open source, ECM Platform using a VMware Virtualisation and Hitachi Storage Back End.

  • The system currently supports 100TB of space for digital assets with a projected growth of 30% year on year.
  • Collection metadata has been standardised to the VRA Core 4.0/CCO (Cataloguing Cultural Objects) standard and work is now going on to implement the PRISM copyright standard.
  • Existing digital assets being migrated into the system include large (1.5GB) digital negatives, Adobe Photoshop files, Adobe InDesign Files, Audio files, and video files.
  • The system makes use of a Hybrid Cloud model, providing an on-premise repository that synchronises with a second repository in the cloud to aid in the collaboration with external partners.



Looking to the future, the Digital Asset Management system is now enabling the National Gallery of Australia to understand and tell the ‘full story’ of a Work of Art. For internal stakeholders, this means being able to create, find and collaborate around content to support Exhibition Design and Education programmes; and to integrate Artist content owned by the Research Library to create a deeper, richer context for the Works of Art. For visitors (physical and digital), this means being able to seamlessly transition from viewing the Work of Art, to watching a video talk presented by the artist on their smartphone, to dynamically requesting a digital print of the work to be created in the Gallery Shop that they can pick up as they leave the Gallery.

Alex Lee, CEO of Lateral Minds says, “Once again, we show how we can deliver real value to the business, and most importantly, to the end user, using the Alfresco One ECM Platform. Our partnership with the NGA has only just begun by delivering the core foundation for their Digital Asset needs. We now look forward to raising the bar of innovation and user experience for the Gallery.“

"The right provider matters as much as the right system...a provider that understands the issues can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful roll out."

 – Marcus Hayman, Project Manager, National Gallery of Australia