Ricky, Jennifer and I just got back from the joint RLG Programs / SAA sponsored forum “Digitization Matters.” We spent the day discussing with a sell-out crowd of 200 archivists at the Newberry Library how digitization for special collections can be ramped up to achieve the kind of throughput which would qualify as “mass digitization” as opposed to spending our effort on hand-crafted projects generating small numbers of high-quality digital files with very granular descriptions. We’ve asked our speakers to be bold and provocative, and we’ve asked our audience to be open-minded. Here’s the complete list of suggestions our speakers discussed with a lively audience, ordered by session. Read them now, and then stay tuned for the mp3 files of the talks and discussions!
Emphasis on Access
Susan Chun (presented by Michael Jenkins)
- Treat digitization and cataloguing of collections as operational activities. This means:
- Survey future activities, build operational budgets, and allocate permanent staff.
- Funders should favor building permanent organizational capacity over short-term projects.
- Make content available, then make changes based on use. This means:
- Track users and uses of content.
- Treat digitization and cataloguing as an iterative process
- Include digitization in initial records processing, i.e., don’t get further behind.
- Develop rapid production scanning using “prosumer” equipment and automation.
- Consider cutting back on resolution and detailed metadata for faster production.
- Investigate voice recognition software for handwritten documents, in lieu of OCR.
- Investigate joining or forming a consortium for storage, Web delivery, and digital preservation.
- Digitize on demand.
- Engage archivists in public service discussions.
- Flatten hierarchy of discovery.
- Digitize comprehensively.
- Avoid discussions of audience.
- Digitize what best supports and reflects your mission.
- Digitize what users want and use
- Integrate digitization into all workflows and user services
- Collaborate with users/IT/curators/archivists/librarians throughout all stages – from planning to implementation –of the digitization process.
- ‘Boutique’ vs. ‘Mass’: Explore digitization options other than those with which we’ve gotten comfortable over the past decade or so.
- Good enough is good enough: Embrace archival control, organization, and the descriptive metadata that flows from that collection management strategy.
- Rose-colored lenses: Know the difference between interpretation and access, and how that impacts our description and digitization work.
- Know your limitations: Aim to influence, not control, dissemination and use of digital facsimiles of material from our collections.
- Decide what you are: a Museum? a Picture Library? or an Archives?
- 1a. Be an Archives.
- Lose your conception of a Photograph as an Individual Work.
- Describe only aggregations of photos, and only in the broadest terms.
- Only consider investing more in description when both these conditions are met:
- Extremely high value item (historical or artifactual value)
- Part of a heterogeneous body of material
- Look for and experiment with emerging technologies that support added description from users and external experts.
James Hastings (presented by Ricky Erway)
- Archival access is no longer about ingress into buildings. Think of the potential exponential increase in use when people no longer have to walk through doors.
- Digitization and online access is far more expensive than most realize. Most archives and manuscript collections, cannot afford to do it all themselves.
- Archival institutions can still have control of projects, standards, and principles when partnering with for-profit organizations pursuing of their own goals.
- To achieve preservation and access goals, require partners to digitize entire series or collections. Avoid “cherry-picking.”