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Case study: AMICO Developing a multi-tiered partnership model for digitised
cultural heritage resources
The Art Museum Image Consortium, AMICO <>, founded in
1997, is an independent non-profit corporation that enhances the collaboration of museums
and other institutions with a collection of art or information about works of art. AMICO
has over 30 members from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.Their
participation is very concrete in that they make annual contributions of digitised works of
art (high resolution images plus rich documentation) to the AMICO Library.This library is
a joint digital repository set up for licensed scholarly and educational use by universities and
colleges, libraries, and schools. Members pay dues based on their annual operating budget
(in 2001: annual budget up to $5 million membership fee $2,500; operating budget $5m
membership fee: $3,500; operating budget $10m+ - membership fee $5,000).
Full Members of AMICO agree to contribute as many digitised works per year as they
are able to provide, until they have completely documented their collections (suggested
submission is 500 works per year, with AMICO helping members lacking technical capacity
to ramp to that requirement over time). One of the strengths of the AMICO Library is that
it does not duplicate the teaching canon of a university slide library but augments it with
tens of thousands of art objects that do not appear in current printed textbooks or mono-
graphs.The 2001-2002 edition will include approximately 75,000 different works of art. It
is accessible primarily to institutional subscribers, with the current potential user base being
over 2 million users, including faculty, students, teachers, staff, and researchers.
The AMICO partnership model is multi-tiered, which is, as Jennifer Trant, Executive
Director, AMICO, has stated in the DigiCULT Online Delphi,"essential to achieve eco-
nomies of scale and efficiencies, and to develop required depth of knowledge". It prevents
market failure, which cultural institutions might have to face if they are "operating outside
ones sphere of expertise without knowledge, research and advice." (July, 17, 2001)
The licensing model (see chart) describes five different roles for partners:The creator, the
compiler, the distributor, the licensee and the user.The creator (e.g. a museum) has a
membership agreement with AMICO and contributes/licenses digital images + metadata to
the AMICO library. AMICO administers the licenses and acts as a compiler or wholesale
licensee.The organisation has contracts with distributors or value-added resellers.These
include e.g. the Research Libraries Group (RLG), the Ohio Library and Information
Network (OhioLINK), Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN). A distri-
butor has relationships with licensee "retailers" (e.g. a university or library) under
subscription terms, and educational or scholarly users will finally use the AMICO license.
Beside the membership dues, the subscription fees collected generate AMICO's major
income. According to David Bearman, President, Archives & Museum Informatics, AMICO
is "reasonably successful without any government funding at all and operating in a market
economy", and he added "the cost to run AMICO for five years is less than the cost of any
first year EU project". (DigiCULT Interview, July 8, 2001)
Recently AMICO developed and made available a variety of model art history assign-
ments designed to introduce students and their teachers to usages of the images and meta-
data in the AMICO library. Created by Peter Walsh, former director of publications for the
Harvard University Art Museums, the model assignments took account of what is offered in
studio art and art history courses offered by current AMICO Library subscribers.