Thursday, May 17, 2007

School for Scanning

The A-Z of Creating Digital Collections

From May 1-3 Greg and I had the privilege of attending the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s School for Scanning in Minneapolis. This training was co-sponsored by the Midwest Art Conservation Center and had participants and presenters from libraries and cultural and corporate institutions throughout the U.S. including the Anchorage Municipal Libraries, Harvard University, the Atomic Testing Museum, U of M, and more. Over the three day period we attended many interesting sessions including The Future of Digitization, Digitizing Text, Digitizing Photos, Planning Digital Projects, Funding Digital Projects, Copyright Issues, and Digital Preservation.

One session Greg and I felt that was especially useful was Outsourcing and Vendor Relations . In this class we learned about the distinct advantages and disadvantages of doing scanning in-house and outsourcing scanning projects. An interesting point was that all scanning projects have in-house components as staff always needs to be part of the process in order to set standards and make decisions. Outsourcing part or even most of a scanning project isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it lets you more effectively manage your time and resources by letting others help. You need to know what you’re getting into before your run out to buy a scanner. We also learned about how to work around the challenges of outsourcing, how to work with vendors, and how to evaluate your scanning project.

Here are some additional interesting and important points from other sessions we attended:

1) Everything starts with the audience, both current and future. Get to know your users. What do they want to see? What do we want users to be able to do with our digital content? How do we accomplish this? What sort of context, interpretation, and services will we provide with this digital content? How will we measure success?

2) The best digitization projects start with the conviction that they will be worthwhile. Know your institutional capabilities. Have a plan for sustaining the project after the grant is completed. Grants don’t sustain projects.

3) Planning is essential. Plan before you budget. Be detailed and clear. Review your plan, you may need to revise. Keep checking it throughout the project.

4) Scanning advice: Do it once, do it right. Scan materials at the highest resolution you can, depending on the items’ priority, funding available, etc. Capture as much metadata (descriptive material) as you can. Save unedited masters in several places and ways. Avoid making decisions based on current technology, think of the future and try to have materials which can be refigured for future/new audiences.

5) Be aware of long term trends affecting the users of archival materials and monitor the health of suppliers. Sometimes we have no control over the technology we use and institutions may have to change for economic, environmental, or financial reasons (the company is not making enough money to sustain the production of film or video tapes, etc.). The conservation community is not large enough to sustain producing certain materials.

6) Selection criteria for materials for digitization: Should materials be digitized (is there sufficient content value and viewer demand, how do they relate to the collection policy and other digital resources), may they be digitized (who owns the legal rights), can they be digitized (is there the necessary infrastructure, what is the physical nature of the materials, is there the technical expertise, do the items have enough organization, description, and arrangement)


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