Preparing Collections for Digitization

Dec 2010 | 208pp

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Preparing Collections for Digitization

Anna E. Bulow and Jess Ahmon

Most libraries, archives and museums around the globe are now confronting the challenges of providing digital access to their collections. As digitization becomes more widespread, there is huge demand for detailed guidance on best practice. While much has been written on the theory, these practical aspects have often been neglected, but they are significant not only in safeguarding the collection during image capture but also in ensuring that projects run smoothly and the resulting digital collection is of high quality.

This practical guide fills that gap, offering guidance covering the end-to-end process of digitizing collections, from selecting records for digitization to choosing suppliers and equipment and dealing with documents that present individual problems. As such, it can be used as a ‘how-to’ reference manual for collection managers who are embarking on a digitization project or who are managing an existing project. It also covers some of the wider issues such as the use of surrogates for preservation, and the long term sustainability of digital access.

Key areas covered are:

  • digitization in the context of collection management
  • before you digitize: resources, suppliers and surrogates
  • the digital image 
  • the process of selection
  • surveying collections
  • equipment for image capture
  • preparation of document formats and fastenings
  • preparation of damaged documents
  • setting up the imaging operation.

Readership: A clearly-written guide to a complex process, this book is an essential resource for all collection and project managers who have responsibility for the preservation of archival collections, as well as all industry professionals whose role touches on the digitization of collections.

1. Digitization in the context of collection management

  • Introduction
  • The impact of new technologies 
  • Collection management
  • Access to content and context
  • Planning and processing with minimal risk
  • The four phases of digitization 
  • Fitting digitization into collection management 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

2. Before you digitize: resources, suppliers and surrogates 

  • Introduction
  • Impact on the institution 
  • Choosing to outsource
  • The role of microfilm 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography  

3. The digital image - Ross Spencer

  • Introduction
  • Basic concepts 
  • Post-processing
  • Image specification
  • Setting a standard 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

4. The process of selection

  • Introduction 
  • A strategy for digitization
  • The principles and process of selection
  • Prioritization 
  • Special collections
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

5. Surveying collections 

  • Introduction
  • Why do a survey?
  • Conducting a survey 
  • Analysing data and making recommendations 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

6. Equipment for image capture 

  • Introduction
  • Risks during imaging 
  • Features to consider
  • Types of equipment 
  • Selecting and testing 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

7. Preparation of document formats and fastenings 

  • Introduction
  • Preparing formats and fastenings 
  • Fitting preparation into the workflow
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography   

8. Preparation of damaged documents 

  • Introduction
  • Is conservation work always needed? 
  • Treatment options 
  • Documentation
  • Fitting conservation work into the workflow 
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography 

9. Setting up the imaging operation

  • Introduction
  • Working environment
  • Workflow and document tracking 
  • Staffing
  • Chapter summary 
  • Bibliography 
  • Conclusion  

Further reading 

  • General guidelines 
  • The digital image 
  • Equipment for image capture

"... an extremely valuable addition to the literature on digitization. It should be of interest to all involved in the digitization of documentary records and textual materials."
- Ariadne

"...a valuable resource for all collection and project managers who have responsibility for the preservation of archival collections, as well as industry professionals whose role touches on the digitisation of collections"
- MmIT Journal

"What this book demonstrates is the importance of developing a strong partnership and mutual understanding between those who are responsible for the digital inputs (the collection managers) and those responsible for the digital outputs (the digitisation professionals). Both groups will be well served by this book."
- Library and Information Research

"A practical approach is at the heart of this publication. How to evaluate the nature and extent of physical damage of collection items? What are the possible ways to deal with document formats and fastenings to achieve good imaging quality without compromising preservation objectives? What equipment should be selected to reach both digital imaging and preservation goals? How a digital imaging workflow should be organised to accommodate document preparation and conservation tasks? These are just several examples of questions addressed in different chapters. The extensive experience of both authors in digitising and preserving heritage collections at the National Archives of the United Kingdom and the case studies presented in all chapters add more value to this publication."
- The Electronic Library

Dr Anna E. Bulow is Head of Preservation at The National Archives. She is editor of the Journal of Paper Conservation and has written and presented on a wide range of subjects including degradation mechanisms of paper, environmental monitoring and control, risk assessment and digitization. 

Jess Ahmon MA MSc is Preservation Officer at The National Archives. She has given a number of presentations on the challenges of digitization of original documents, most recently at the Digital Futures training programme run by King's College London.

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