I was talking to some people about digitization and then began realizing that not everyone understands the important of digitizing collections in Archives and Libraries.
We all hear about access when it comes to digitization. People all over the world will be able to see the photos in your collection. This helps out researchers and genealogists. It may even get someone to go to the library when they would not otherwise visit – even if it is a virtual visit, it really can make an impact and leave a lasting impression.
In addition to simply being able to physically access the collection anytime and from anywhere around the world, digitization gives you the opportunity to index your photo collection (and cross index too) so that it becomes searchable in a variety of ways and becomes more useful to everyone.
Did you know that digitization offers an element of preservation? When you put material online people are sure to comment – at least if you invite them to comment – and then you may find out more information about the photo collection in your library that may otherwise have been lost.
Digitization can (and should) become part of a disaster recovery plan. Data should be stored in a different place from the photos themselves so that hopefully if one is destroyed than the other could be preserved. As well, there should be multiple copies (and multiple formats) for your digital data.
The ALA has a framework for digitization and they state that “digital resources must receive appropriate preservation” and that “preservation activities require the development of standards, best practices,
and sustainable funding models to support long-term commitment to digital
resources.” Without these digitization is not at all a method of preservation.
Although digitization can be a form of preservation it should *never* replace the proper care and preservation of the original photos and negatives. Technology advances and changes and these should be stored properly if at all possible. In fact, it is more likely that these photographs will have a longer life then the digital copies since digital copies require software and computers to see and the technologies used are changing pretty rapidly.
When digitizing one should definitely be aware of copyright and should think about getting an attribution license so any content put up is attributed back to your library/archive. There is a plethora of information out there. I really like this manual since it provides a really basic overview of things you should cover when starting a digitization project and it was done at a fairly small library as a starting point. As well, the CHIN and Cornell tutorials are quite helpful as is the Getty Imaging book.