SOAS University of London

Centre for Digital Africa, Asia and the Middle East (CeDAAME)

The Centre for Digital Africa, Asia and the Middle East – CeDAAME – was established using a grant from JISC to lead digitisation activities at SOAS. Its aim is to improve access to valuable research and learning material. During the first 18 months (the period funded by JISC), CeDAAME developed a Digital Assets Management Strategy. Although the strategy was for SOAS, the methodology will be of interest to any institution developing a systematic approach to digitisation and long-term storage/access to digital resources.

Digital content

If you are interested in the material that the School has digitised, look at the SOAS Digital Archive and Special Collections.

We have documented the SOAS file formats we use for long-term storage and the image metadata schema we use for embedding metadata into the IPTC fields of TIFF and JPEG images.

Strategy development

We needed a strategy that matched our institutional and user needs, that related to the library, archive and other scholarly holdings of the School, and that was sustainable in the long term. So that the strategy was based on the most up-to-date information we conducted:

  1. a user survey
  2. a collections audit
  3. an institutional audit

This information was used as a basis for a Working Group that produced, through a series of iterations, a draft strategy that was made available to the entire School, including outside users, to give their feedback. From this we produced the final strategy and an executive summary.

It became obvious that we had to quantify the commitment, especially the financial investment, that the strategy would involve (a digital assets management strategy is a long-term commitment and shouldn’t be entered into on a whim). Therefore, we developed a business case to accompany the strategy.

We took this strategy and business case to the School for adoption, however our timing coincided with the most uncertain period in higher education finances in recent years (autumn 2010 to spring 2011). At the time the project ended (February 2011) the School did not know whether it had the money to support the strategy in forthcoming years.  Furthermore, we are proposing a fundamental change, which is always a difficult matter, especially technological change in an institution of traditional scholarship such as SOAS.  For these reasons, the School has delayed the adoption of the strategy.

Nevertheless, the project achieved its aims, and we are making the resources we have developed freely available for you to adapt as you see fit.  SOAS has been the case study throughout, but we believe that the methodology used can form the basis for any university or college to develop its own strategy:


CeDAAME has been instrumental in setting up a network of partnerships with universities and museums in the UK and other European countries that hold complementary collections.  Through this network we hope to enable researchers to access related resources using a single search tool. As an example, see the work of the Yale/SOAS Islamic Manuscripts Gallery. We instigated a discussion group for digital librarians and archivists in central London and have established a JISC mailing list called the Digital Library Forum.

On-demand scanning service

As a by-product of our surveys, we identified a need for an on-demand scanning service. This has been set up within the SOAS Library on a cost recovery basis using a team of student digitisation assistants, and we expect this to continue after the project finishes. More details on our scanning service.


The Library, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG