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OPAL Digital Collections

The shared OPAL Digital Collections project.


Here you can find information about:

If you have additional questions or need more information, please contact OPAL Support.

Participating in OPAL's CONTENTdm

As of July 2020, participation is aligned with the term of the OPAL Service Agreement and costs are incorporated into the participants' overall OPAL fees.  As such, the commitment to participate runs through the end of the Service Agreement period.  Libraries may join the OPAL CONTENTdm at any point in the middle of the Service Agreement period with the commitment to continue through June 30, 2023.

Libraries opting to participate share the costs of subscription based on the amount of storage needed, as outlined below.

Storage Annual Cost
10 GB $300 
40 GB $1,200
120 GB $3,600
Additional increments of 40 GB $1,200 ea


Getting Started

Once you're ready to begin, we will need the following information to set-up your institution in the OPAL Digital Collections on CONTENTdm. 

After the information is received at we will create your account(s) and CONTENTdm web site pages, and will send you details for how to access them. We will also provide you with the license key for the Project Client. Log in to the CONTENTdm Administration Tool with your OCLC username and password to approve and index collections, manage metadata, and make edits (depending on permissions).

To contribute content to your Collections, you will need to download the current Project Client for CONTENTdm. This is the staging area where you prepare, describe and load batches of content (including compound objects). There is a 2GB limit for single, digital files in Project Client. 

1. Contact Name

  • Decide on a primary contact responsible for coordinating your CONTENTdm instance and provide their contact information.
  • Who else will need permissions? Provide all user names that should have access to the new collection you are setting up.  Permissions are all or nothing - no partial access settings.
  • You will need to set up an account with OCLC for us to create your user account in CONTENTdm. If you already have one, please provide us with your User ID. If you don't have one, please set up a free account with OCLC and send us the User ID.

2. Institution Details

  • ‚ÄčInstitution Name as you would like it to appear, email, phone number.

3. Collection Name & Information

  • On the CONTENTdm server, items are contained in collections that share a common metadata schema and similarly themed types of items. Each collection can contain items from multiple projects. Projects are a working space where you describe and prepare batches of content.

Collection name(s) need to include the institution name and cannot be more than 80 characters, including spaces. The collection name cannot include any of the following characters: \ / : * ? " < > |   For example:

  • Baldwin Wallace - Philura Gould Baldwin Collection
  • Lourdes – Art Narratives
  • Each collection must have an “About This Collection” page that describes it, even if no “look and feel” customization is being requested (see below). Information may include, but is not limited to:

a. The relationship between the collection and the institution
b. Source of the original items
c. Purpose of the collection

  • Is there an existing collection we should model this collection on? If not we will build on the four generic templates available in the system.

4. Metadata (informational - no special steps required)

Institutions control their own metadata. Generally, the simplified Dublin Core metadata option is sufficient.  At a minimum, you should include Title, Collection, Language, Rights, and Type metadata for each object. We also encourage member libraries to keep the ODN-DPLA metadata profile in mind when selecting a metadata profile and/or creating your own.  Additional suggestions:

  • Balance specificity and generality in defining local fields.
  • Decide early on which locally-defined fields are intended only for the local environment and which are included to facilitate metadata aggregators, such as the DPLA.
  • Be selective about the data elements included, since users will follow a link back to the home institution for access to the resource itself and any additional metadata.
  • Use consistent date formatting.

5. Customization Options

  • Please include logos, images, RGB or Hex code color information when submitting your details.
  • Also keep in mind that collection landing page images can also be customized by the member institution from their admin once the collection is set-up.
  • Our CONTENTdm instance does support OAI-PMH, but it is enabled on a collection-by-collection basis due to the shared environment. Contact if you would like any or all of your collections enabled for OAI-PMH harvesting.
  • As far as we know, CONTENTdm does not support plug-ins like Omeka or other digital asset management tools.

6. Special Instructions

  • Include any special instructions, unique circumstances or other details relevant to your collection. 

7. Training

  • We recommend OCLC’s CONTENTdm Basic Skills Training Series for anyone who will be working with the platform and adding content

  • While we are not able to provide customized training support for CONTENTdm, we can connect you with other OPAL institutions (for mentoring) who have similar collections.

File Sizes

Some notes about file size restrictions:

  • Transcripts for audio files should be treated just like any image or PDF file. Transcript field size is limited to 128 KB per item. One way around file size restrictions is to link out to files.
  • There is a limit of 2 GB in Project Client when uploading single digital files.
  • There is a hard limit of 64 MB when uploading files through the CONTENTdm web admin. If you experience an error message, you will need to switch to the Project Client.
  • According to OCLC, if you upload a TIF and CONTENTdm converts it to a JPG, the compressed size of the JPG is counted into the storage allotment, not the JPG. They recommend using JEPG2000 instead of JPG and to select "Create display image during the step-by-step upload."


OPAL has decided NOT to use OCLC's OCR, mostly because it's so much more expensive ($320-ish per year, per license-no ability to share among institutions).  Instead, most OPAL libraries are using other tools to do the OCR.  Bluffton is using ABBYY FineReader ($199, one time) and Walsh is using one of their campus Adobe licenses.   Several institutions have reported that ABBYY FineReader does a much better job with OCR on some projects than Adobe.

When you use your own OCR, you capture your image externally using whatever tool and then process it with ABBYY or Adobe and then import into CONTENTdm. Here’s the process Carrie uses at Bluffton:

  • Open all of my TIFs or JPGs (whatever I’ve produced with scanning or cameras for a given project)
  • Pre-process to straighten skewed pages or crop, etc,
  • Run OCR
  • Save as PDF
  • Then I upload the PDFs to the Project Client, and the full-text comes alongside into a Full Text metadata field.