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Digital Initiatives: CONTENTdm

Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library

What is CONTENTdm?

CONTENTdm is a digital asset management system used by libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions across the world. CONTENTdm is an OCLC product.

According to OCLC:

  • "CONTENTdm is a powerful application, with a Project Client and complementary Web services, used for importing metadata and items, and CONTENTdm Administration, from which you administer the server, manage collections, configure the website and work with items" (CONTENTdm Overview).
  • "CONTENTdm allows you to easily build, preserve, and showcase your digital collections on your personalized website, making them more discoverable to people around the world" (CONTENTdm).

CONTENTdm is the content management system used by the North Dakota State Library and the Digital Horizons consortium.


The fundamentals of using CONTENTdm to manage your digital collections are covered in three webinars from OCLC. Recordings of these webinars or information about upcoming live classes are available on OCLC's CONTENTdm training page. This is the best starting place for those who are new to CONTENTdm.

CONTENTdm Topics

Overview of CONTENTdm Topics

This guide will cover several different aspects of CONTENTdm and its Project Client:

  • Adding items to the Project Client
  • CONTENTdm Administration - online administration tool
    • Configuration
    • Field properties
    • Exporting
    • Reports
  • Controlled vocabularies
  • Editing and deleting items (via the Project Client and CONTENTdm Administration)
  • Project Client - CONTENTdm's software
    • Overview
    • Features
    • Settings
  • CONTENTdm troubleshooting
    • Errors
    • FAQs
  • Uploading and approving items (via the Project Client and CONTENTdm Administration)
  • Website Configuration Tool - alter the appearance and behavior of key elements for CONTENTdm collections
    • Facets/ filters
    • Printing
    • Downloading
    • Collection landing pages
Adding Items to the Project Client

Add URLs/ Embed External Content

Tab-Delimited Text

Controlled Vocabularies

Controlled vocabularies are standardized and organized lists of words, phrases, terms, names, etc. that provide a consistent way to describe and/or tag data. Essentially, they are a list of terms that have been preapproved for use for a given metadata field. According to the University of Texas Libraries, controlled vocabularies "are standardized and organized arrangements of words and phrases and provide a consistent way to describe data.".

Using a controlled vocabulary for a title field, for example, would generally not be feasible because titles often vary. However, for a field like location, controlled vocabularies come in handy so you do not accidentally use a different variation of a term (like using "No. Dak." instead of "North Dakota"). Controlled vocabularies are useful for metadata fields for personal names or organizations. You want to make sure that you are using the correct version of the name.

The Project Client of CONTENTdm uses several controlled vocabularies for certain fields.

Project Client

It is important to note that the Project Client is NOT equipped with an "undo" button. Therefore, extreme care needs to be taken when entering metadata into the Project Client (especially when using the "Fill Down," "Fill Up," or "Fill All" functions).

Downloading the Project Client

Project Client: Overview

Editing Project Client Settings

Uploading & Approving Items

Uploading Items from the Project Client

After an item has been added to the Project Client and all the appropriate metadata has been added, the item can be uploaded. To do this, follow these steps: click on the checkbox next to the item's thumbnail image and then click on the "Upload for Approval" button. This will upload the item from the Project Client to the digital collection.

However, the item is not public yet. The item needs to be approved and the collection indexed (via the online CONTENTdm Admin) in order for it to be added to the online collection. View the "Approving Items on CONTENTdm Admin" section below for more information on this step.

Approving Items on CONTENTdm Admin

After an item has been uploaded from the Project Client, it needs to be approved on the online CONTENTdm Admin to be added to the digital collection. To do this, review the item on the "Approve Items" page of CONTENTdm Admin and then "approve and index." These steps are explained in more detail on the CONTENTdm: Uploading & Approving Items guide.

Website Configuration Tool

The Website Configuration Tool is used for branding and tailoring the appearance and behavior of key elements of your CONTENTdm collections. There are six tabs on the left menu of the Website Configuration Tool: Appearance, Search & Browse, Items, Page Types, Localization, and Custom. Of these six tabs, three of them have notable sections within them:

  • Search & Browse
    • Facets - select the metadata fields to display as filter options for your collection
  • Items
    • Print - enable/ disable the print button
    • Download - enable/ disable downloads from the collection
  • Page Types

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Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.