Digitization can be performed either in-house or outsourced. In-house implies that a department of the institution captures the images—supplying hardware and software, trained personnel, and overhead. Outsourcing requires entering into a contract with a vendor who will receive the images, convert them, and return the originals with the required digital files. Both in-house and outsourced alternatives should be considered when embarking on a digitization project.
As archivists, we take our responsibilities seriously as stewards of the collections entrusted to our care, ensuring that our assets remain safe and accessible to users. The demand for increased online access to collections, coupled with limited fiscal and staff resources, makes balancing the two a challenge.
Staffing needs for digital projects depend on the project’s size and complexity. Training existing staff members to work on digitization projects is a critical component of change management within the institution because digital projects require new skills. The digital age is moving memory institutions into new paradigms of delivering both services and content, and this alteration brings with it a need for training in managing information in a hybrid environment.
Archives and special collection development policies should state what the organization currently holds and the collecting areas, especially records of enduring value that represent the organization's history. A policy will not only formalize the archives program, it will allow you to focus on what you would like to acquire as well as to disregard materials that fall outside of the collection. Focusing on what you will not collect will also allow you to deaccession materials that should not be in the collection.
Over the years, I have directed or have been a subject matter expert on a number of projects using born-digital and digitized cultural heritage materials. With each new experience, I have gathered a series of questions, an aide-mémoire, to be explored before commencing a digital initiative.
Digital files exist simply as data until they are rendered by application software, operating systems, and hardware platforms—making them vulnerable to format obsolescence and media decay. Unlike physical materials, digital files cannot survive what we call “benign neglect”.
Topics: Digital Archives
Rights management has significant implications for archival collections. If you have documents or images in your possession, you might believe you own the rights to them. However, even though you may physically have the items, the creator of the documents retains the legal copyright, sometimes for much longer than you would assume.
I was once the director of an archival collection related to historical buildings around the world. From Babylon to Bauhaus, the collection held just about every amazing world monument you could think of and documented state-of-the-art historic preservation techniques. Here was my challenge: the archives was institutional with no public access, and I was a “lone arranger” in charge of all aspects of archival management at the organization. How could I share these treasures?