The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has 15 schools and colleges spread across three campuses. The university has an in-house staff of marketers and communication professionals, but each school and college has its own specialized communication staff as well.

University communication professionals create a wide range of materials to appeal to thousands of prospective students, donors and community members each year. They also create internal communications for audiences as large and diverse as the university’s 24,000-plus students and 3,500 employees.

The Problem

University photographers create a large volume of digital images, totaling approximately 500 gigabytes of new content each year. UWM recognized the need for an affordable, cloud-based storage solution that would allow communications and IT professionals across all schools, colleges and administrative units to access their photos. The storage system also needed to have an archive feature to preserve older images in perpetuity while using less storage space. Additionally, marketers and web designers needed access to a shared collection of high-quality stock photos of the campus, students, faculty and surrounding city.

The Solution

Custom photo archive:

The UWM Photo Archive is designed to meet the needs of a modern university. The app allows communications and IT professionals for the university at large to store and access photos, but also includes private photo collections so that individual schools, colleges and administrative units can store their proprietary images. The app can easily accommodate new photo collections to meet the university’s needs as it grows and changes. The app could even be repurposed for use at other institutions.

Affordable long-term storage:

All files are hosted through Amazon Web Services. When a user uploads an image to the UWM Photo Archive, the file will be immediately accessible for three years on Amazon S3 storage, and can be downloaded within seconds. After three years, files move into Amazon Glacier archival storage, an affordable long-term storage option. The app allows users to access files from Glacier within five to six hours, and once an image has been retrieved from Glacier storage, it will appear in the app for immediate download for 30 days before moving back into the archive. Archival storage allows the app keep costs down while preserving files in perpetuity and saving terabytes of space.

Stock photo library:

In addition to housing individual private image collections, the app includes a collection of high-quality stock photos that any user can access. The stock photos are organized with a dictionary of keywords. If a marketer for an individual school wants to include a photo from a UWM graduation ceremony in a promotional brochure, she can search images with the tag “graduation” to find an assortment of professional, UWM-specific images. She can then add the photo to her digital shopping cart and purchase the license for a small fee. The stock photo library can also be curated to add new photos and remove outdated images as the university changes.

The UWM Photo Archive went live in April 2020 and is used by all 15 of the university’s schools and colleges. Designed for desktop and mobile use, the app accommodates the administrative structure of a typical large university and provides a large volume of storage space at a low cost. The app will help preserve the university’s visual record for years or even decades to come.

UWM Photo Archive login page
UWM Photo Archive collection list example
UWM Photo Archive album example
UWM Photo Archive image example