The paper describes the Zenith research project, which is being carried out at the Universities of Kent and Lancaster, UK. It is a research prototype of an object management system that is intended to meet the data-management requirements of the next generation of application domains, such as office information systems, integrated project support environments, and geographical information systems. Zenith is designed to provide a flexible and adaptable platform for the management of distributed multimedia objects, on top of which specialized applications can easily be built. The design of the system reflects this goal. The object-management layer provides the high-level abstractions required for managing complex objects, and the base-services layer is responsible for the management of primitive entities stored on conventional and specialized devices, while maintaining appropriate location, media, and other transparencies. The earlier sections of the paper briefly discuss the background to the project, including the context of the Zenith environment and the philosophy that underlies its design. Subsequent sections concentrate on the object model and the object-oriented design of the prototype system architecture. Finally, the current status and implementation issues are presented, followed by some brief concluding remarks.