Europe, Middle East and Africa

  • English



OCLC CONTENTdm Community Center | Documentation

CONTENTdm supports successful, rich and diverse collections for more than 2,000 organizations worldwide. When you choose CONTENTdm, you become part of an active user community that shares best practices and locally developed extensions through several regional user group meetings, virtual user group meetings and an online discussion group on the OCLC CONTENTdm Community Center (login required). The Community Center also provides information about quarterly releases, updates, news and other events related to CONTENTdm.

To get started with the OCLC Community Center, you will need to request a Service Account. Please use the OCLC symbol for the organization that owns the CONTENTdm license. Within a few days your CONTENTdm Community Center username will be emailed to you, along with instructions for setting your password.

Comprehensive documentation, including help files, tutorials and other tools and support resources, is available online through the CONTENTdm Support page.

List Component Not Fully Configured.

There are no Member Stories matching the configured list.

Frequently asked questions

Data and metadata

Is CONTENTdm a relational database? What is the underlying management system?

CONTENTdm is not a relational database. CONTENTdm uses a text-based search engine built using Internet standards and protocols. It is optimized for fast text querying capability. This provides great flexibility in metadata support and fast performance for large collections. CONTENTdm supports text searches within or across multiple text-based metadata fields, enabling rich metadata searching within or across collections.

You do not need to purchase or support any additional databases to run CONTENTdm.

Does CONTENTdm allow data to be imported from an existing application?

Yes, data can be imported from other systems using a tab-delimited text format. This facilitates batch import of existing collection items and metadata from Microsoft® Excel, Microsoft Access, and other programs that support export of their data in tab-delimited text format. Newspapers, monographs and ebooks with metadata in METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader.

Does CONTENTdm allow data to be exported to a nonproprietary format such as XML?

Yes. CONTENTdm supports the export of data to XML or tab-delimited text format. CONTENTdm provides custom XML export options so users can define specific fields to be exported and designate the format for each exported field, including repeating fields and customization of XML tag names. In addition, you can choose to make CONTENTdm collection metadata available for harvesting via OAI-PMH.

Can records be integrated into our local Web OPAC?

Yes. You can upload the metadata from your CONTENTdm server to WorldCat using the free Digital Collection Gateway service. Each time you upload metadata to WorldCat using the Gateway, you are provided a WorldCat Sync report with the OCLC numbers of the records in WorldCat that correspond to the items in your CONTENTdm collection. You can use the Connexion client and the list of OCLC numbers from the WorldCat Sync report to create a local save file of MARC records from WorldCat to load into your local system.

If your ILS supports it, OAI can also be used to harvest from CONTENTdm into your ILS.

Does CONTENTdm support OAI?

CONTENTdm is fully compliant with OAI-PMH version 2.0. You can specify which of your published collections should be made available for harvesting. Support is also provided for OAI flow control, which permits large harvests of collections to be broken into smaller batches for more reliable network transmission.

Does CONTENTdm support the Metadata and Encoding Transmission (METS) schema?

Yes. XML data in the METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader. You can also export to METS/ALTO by using the CONTENTdm Standard XML metadata export format together with a custom stylesheet.

How is the metadata stored and indexed? Have you developed your own search software?

All metadata in CONTENTdm is stored in XML. It is indexed using a text-based database developed by OCLC. The database uses an optimized search engine (indexing words and phrases) and has been designed to scale to handle millions of records. The CONTENTdm search engine is the same search engine that powers WorldCat and is fast, flexible and accurate.

Does CONTENTdm support controlled vocabularies or thesauri?

Yes, CONTENTdm offers controlled vocabulary for consistent, uniform metadata entry. The software includes ten integrated thesauri from OCLC Terminologies Service:

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)®
  • Canadian Subject Headings (CSH)
  • Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Type Vocabulary
  • Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®
  • Guidelines On Subject Access To Individual Works Of Fiction, Drama, Etc., 2nd ed., form and genre
  • Māori Subject Headings / Nga Ūpoko Tukutuku
  • Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) 2013
  • Newspaper Genre List
  • Thesaurus for Graphic Materials: TGM I, Subject terms
  • Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)®

Additionally, you can import or develop custom controlled vocabularies.

Can database administration be distributed?

Collections can be administered remotely through the web-based CONTENTdm Administration interface. This enables multiple, distributed groups to collaborate on digital collection building.

Users can submit new items and metadata descriptions in a variety of ways:

  • a simple CONTENTdm web form
  • the CONTENTdm Project Client
  • the CONTENTdm Flex Loader (for structured METS/ALTO data such as newspapers and ebooks)
  • the CONTENTdm Catcher web service (metadata only)
  • the OCLC Connexion cataloging service

Are there any limitations on the number of items, collections, or metadata fields, or on field length?

CONTENTdm can scale to handle millions of items. The maximum number of collections is 400 per server. The maximum number of metadata fields a user can create for each collection is 125. The maximum number of characters supported in a single metadata field is 128,000.

More and larger collections require more system resources. For details please see the CONTENTdm System Requirements below.

What is the CONTENTdm searching method?

CONTENTdm provides text search capability across user-defined fields and multiple collections. CONTENTdm also has a browse capability that allows users to view all the items in a collection. Searches can be performed on a single field or multiple fields in a collection and across multiple collections on a CONTENTdm server. Additionally, CONTENTdm offers Unicode searching, relevancy sorting, and faceted searching.

File formats

Does CONTENTdm handle books, periodicals, and other documents?

CONTENTdm allows you to create items consisting of multiple elements, such as books, newspapers, postcards, and multiple views of an object. This makes it possible for a user’s search results to return the entire entity rather than just individual elements of it. Full-text searching of documents is also supported.

What file types does CONTENTdm support?

CONTENTdm can store any file format. It can also display any file format that can be displayed in your browser either natively or via a plug-in. This includes all common formats such as JPEG, GIF, or TIFF images, WAV or MP3 audio files, AVI or MPEG video files, and PDF files, as well as URLs and EAD finding aids. Large-format image collections also benefit from the JPEG2000 capability available with CONTENTdm. XML data in the METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader.

Audio and video files that are H.264-encoded and Flash-compatible will play inline when selected by an end user. Other audio and video file formats can be stored but will be played via a plug-in or browser capability to support the format.

Authentication and security

Does CONTENTdm have provision for encrypting or protecting images from being copied without permission?

Images can be protected by restricting access to them using the CONTENTdm security features. Additionally, the Image Rights options enable you to band, brand, or watermark images with copyright information or a logo. There is no facility in CONTENTdm to prevent images from being saved by users viewing them in a Web browser. In general, any image that can be viewed in your browser can be captured and saved.

What kind of security or access control does CONTENTdm offer?

CONTENTdm supports both collection-level and item-level security. Access to collections and items can be restricted based on user names or IP addresses. You can also set permissions so that metadata is available to all users but permissions are required to view the associated file.

We understand that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of our library members’ information are vital to their business operations. To protect key information, we use a multilayered approach by constantly monitoring and improving our applications, systems and processes to meet the growing demands and challenges of dynamic security threats. We are ISO-27001 certified.

Does CONTENTdm support authentication via LDAP?

CONTENTdm relies on the underlying web server for authentication services. The Apache LDAP authentication module enables authentication via LDAP. Consult the Apache/LDAP documentation for details.


What platforms are supported?

You can run CONTENTdm either on your own hardware or via CONTENTdm Hosting Services. If you choose to run CONTENTdm on your own hardware, both Windows and Linux are supported. Note that regardless of whether you use Hosting Services, Windows or Linux, you will still need a Windows machine to run the Project Client.


How open is the API? Can we develop custom interfaces to the CONTENTdm server?

CONTENTdm has a well-defined, Web-based query API that allows you to develop custom interfaces. If your interface is used simply for accessing your media collection through basic queries, customization is very straightforward. As of version 6, CONTENTdm provides a configuration tool that lets you brand and tailor your website without programming. The API is available to any user who wants to make advanced customizations to their website. To see examples of the thousands of collections and ways the CONTENTdm community uses CONTENTdm, see CONTENTdm in action.

If our images are already in a database, how difficult will it be to move them to CONTENTdm?

It's simple to load an existing database into CONTENTdm. If you can export your existing text description information into a tab-delimited file (most databases have this capability) and can identify one of the fields as the file name of the corresponding image, you can easily load data and items into CONTENTdm using the data import tools.

What standards does CONTENTdm support?

OCLC's adherence to commonly accepted standards allows CONTENTdm to be open and extensible and to provide functionality that meets a wide range of needs. CONTENTdm supports numerous industry standards including Unicode, Z39.50, Qualified Dublin Core, VRA, XML, JPEG2000, OAI-PMH and METS/ALTO.

  • Unicode—CONTENTdm fully supports Unicode, an industry standard that allows computers to represent and manipulate text in most of the world's non-Western languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek and Hebrew, among others.
  • Z39.50—CONTENTdm is Z39.50 compatible through a free, open-source software application called ZContent, developed by the University of Utah Marriott Library. ZContent provides access to digital collections on CONTENTdm servers from library portals and local catalogs and can be downloaded for free from the CONTENTdm User Support Center.
  • Dublin Core and VRA Core—Use of the Dublin Core and VRA (Visual Resource Association) Core within CONTENTdm allows for a common language when describing media and searching across collections. Collection administrators also can apply their own field descriptions and map back to the Dublin Core standard to provide flexible searching.
  • OAI-PMH—CONTENTdm servers support OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) by functioning as OAI repositories for those who wish to make their metadata available for harvesting.
  • XML—XML is used for all internal metadata and structure descriptions. CONTENTdm also offers custom XML export of metadata that supports user-defined fields and formats for greater compatibility with local catalog systems and other applications.
  • METS/ALTO—The import of XML data in the METS/ALTO format is supported for NDNP newspapers, CCS newspapers and CCS monographs and e-books.

Do you support Z39.50?

The University of Utah Marriott Library has developed open-source software that adds Z39.50 compatibility to any CONTENTdm server. The purpose of this software is to provide access to digital collections on CONTENTdm servers from library portals and local catalogs. ZContent is a Perl script and module that provides a Z39.50 target for the CONTENTdm server. ZContent processes incoming Z39.50 requests, converts them to appropriate CONTENTdm requests and returns the results in either USMARC or XML format.

Does CONTENTdm support languages other than English?

CONTENTdm fully supports Unicode and thus fully supports entering, storing, displaying and searching in all Unicode languages.

You can easily localize CONTENTdm websites to support languages other than English. Currently, localizations are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Chinese (simplified and traditional) and Thai. Users can localize to support other languages by editing an XML file in Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) format.

Does CONTENTdm support EAD?

Yes, you can add EAD finding aids to CONTENTdm collections. Metadata is automatically extracted from EAD files based on an organization's custom metadata map. End users have two viewing options for the EAD items: a navigable table of contents or the full EAD record in a single view. This full EAD view can be customized with an XSL file. EAD records are fully text searchable, and search terms are highlighted within the EAD content.

What is an item? What is a compound object? How are they counted against my license level?

An item is any digital file that has been added to a CONTENTdm collection, such as a photograph, a page in a book, a dissertation in PDF format or one side of a postcard. The metadata describing a single item accompanies the single item, and together they are counted as one in the total number of items.

For example, if you have 500 photographs, each photograph (image with associated metadata) counts as one item. Therefore, 500 items are added to the collection and counted in the CONTENTdm license level total.

A compound object consists of two or more files bound together with an XML structure that enables the end user to retrieve them as a single object. Compound objects can be documents, books, the front and back of postcards or picture cubes (six-sided views of three-dimensional objects). Each of the individual images or pages, as well as the resulting compound object itself, has associated metadata and is included in the item count.

For example:

  • Ten two-sided postcards would be counted as 30 items in the CONTENTdm license level total (i.e., two images with metadata + one compound object with metadata = three items per postcard).
  • Twenty scanned diaries of 100 pages each would be counted as 2,020 items in the CONTENTdm license level total (i.e., 100 images with metadata + one compound object with metadata = 101 items per diary).

A special case is a multi-page PDF. Regardless of whether you add a multi-page PDF to CONTENTdm "as is" or convert it to a compound object first, it is counted as one item. Though the collection administrator may decide to convert a multi-page PDF into a compound object for better page-level discovery, it still counts as only one item.

How can I tell how many items and objects are in a collection?

CONTENTdm provides reports that give collection administrators information about the item count, compound object count, file types and build history.

What functionality does the OCR Extension include?

The CONTENTdm OCR Extension enables you to integrate OCR (optical character recognition) with your digital collection building. The OCR process converts a text-based image file (either a TIFF or JPEG file) into a corresponding ASCII text file, which is then full-text searchable.

You can use the OCR Extension to generate full-text transcripts from text-based image files. You can add the OCR Extension to any new or existing CONTENTdm license, and it is included with the purchase of some license levels.

The OCR Extension also includes support for 184 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Russian and Hebrew, among others.

The OCR Extension uses award-winning ABBYY® FineReader OCR software to capture text to add to searchable metadata fields within CONTENTdm collections. With this feature, end users' search words are highlighted in the image when viewed.

Additionally, if you want to make printable PDFs available to end users for easy printing, you can choose to generate a PDF of an entire compound object using the OCR Extension. Whether applied to select items in a collection or extensive document archives, the integrated OCR capability makes collection building more efficient.

System requirements

CONTENTdm Project Client

The CONTENTdm Project Client requires the following:

  • Windows 7, 8, 8.1, or 10. For sites processing a large volume of files, the 64-bit versions are recommended.
  • 2 GB RAM is recommended. For sites processing a large volume of files, 4 GB RAM is recommended.
  • 2 GB of available hard-disk space for installation. A portion of this disk space will be freed after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard drive.
  • Minimum display resolution of 1024 × 768.

CONTENTdm Website

Browsers tested with the CONTENTdm Website are:

  • Google Chrome (current versions)
  • Mozilla Firefox (current versions)
  • Apple Safari (current versions)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 10 and 11

CONTENTdm now includes a preservation archive

Ensure secure, managed storage and monitoring for your master files and digital originals. CONTENTdm’s preservation archive provides digital preservation of all your digital files, and it is fully integrated into your digital collection workflow. You can be sure your library's master files and digital originals are securely stored in a purpose-built environment. The preservation archive is a specially designed system in a controlled operating environment dedicated to the ongoing managed storage of digital content.

Learn more about CONTENTdm’s preservation archive.

Need professional digitization services?

OCLC's digitization partner, Backstage Library Works can manage a variety of digitization projects. Backstage Library Works also provides a wide range of additional services, including data entry and OCR (optical character recognition) processing.

OCLC Connexion digital import

If you'd like to enable catalogers to use OCLC's Connexion cataloging service to add digital items to CONTENTdm collections during standard cataloging workflows, consider the Connexion digital import.


Training for CONTENTdm is available in both instructor-led and tutorial formats. As part of our commitment to controlling costs and providing value for our members, this training is offered for free to users of the service.

Member stories


Make history relevant in a visual culture

Discover how the Indiana Historical Society organizes online images in a way that allows people around the world to easily browse and learn about Indiana's history.

Slover iWall_thumb

Bring local history to life

See how Norfolk Public Library presented their local history collection in a way that draws more people into the library.

CONTENTdm in action at two British universities

Image from the University of Warwick video showing how they used CONTENTdm to increase collection access

University of Warwick: Supporting digitization with CONTENTdm

The University of Warwick used CONTENTdm to digitize their collections in order for their previously hidden materials to be exposed to a wider research community. Hear from staff and students to find out how the increased access to the collections has helped them.

Digitizing local history at the University of Leicester with CONTENTdm

The University of Leicester has built up an impressive range of online collections, digitizing local artefacts dating from the 19th century onwards, in collaboration with community organisations. The objective, to show the changes in and around a typical British industrial city, transcends the merely local. Find out how the University of Leicester used CONTENTdm to achieve their objective.

Image from the University of Leicester video showing how CONTENTdm has improved resource access