Many people like to interact with records on the web and often wonder when we will be adding more of the primary resources located in the Archives to our digital collections or ask us why we can’t just digitize everything.
There are many factors the Archives have to take into consideration when embarking on any digitization project. Here are some of things we think about:
Cost (technological and human)
Digitization projects can cost a lot of money in terms of equipment needed and human time.
Scanners need to be bought that support the scanning standards and the dimensions of the various archival materials to be scanned. Not all archival material is the same size. Archives can hold photographs, maps, letter and legal paper size documents and architectural drawings, to name a few examples. You can’t use a scanner for photographs on larger maps. It just won’t fit.
Software for metadata input and image adjustment will also need to be purchased to make sure information that is need to find the image is attached to the image and that the digitized surrogate is as sharp and clean as can be.
The scanning process, input of metadata and training staff on the hardware and software takes time and can often pull staff away from core projects occuring in the repository.
Anything that is scanned must be checked to ensure that the “quality, accuracy and consistency of the digital [image]” is captured. Quality control involves checking the file structure, (file format, compression, colour mode, bit depth and colour profile), metadata, (file name, institutional information, descriptive information, and the image itself, (correct dimensions, rsolution, orientation, borders, colour tone, loss of detail, dusts, Newton’s rings and other defects).
While this may seem time consuming, this is the best way to ensure good scanned images are created and reduces the handling of the original material adding to its longevity.
Maintenance of digital files
Once material is digitized they must reside somewhere. Storage can take on many forms: external hard drives, networked drives, servers etc. It is wise to ensure the digital files are saved in at least two places, doubling the cost of storage space. As the digital files are master copies, their file size is usually larger than their access counterparts eating up even more storage space, driving up the cost. Furthermore, the files need to be monitored for degradation. Digital files, unfortunately, do not last forever. These files need to be preserved like other digital files.
Maintenance of access platform
The material is now digitized, now what? Where are we going to put the material so the world can see the lovely images. Platforms, such as the one you are currently viewing, take a lot of time and expertise to maintain. They often require upgrades and redesign to keep the site looking fresh and secure.
Digitizing material takes a lot of time and money to complete. While the Archives would love to put more online, it just isn’t possible to do so.
What is outlined above is just a snippet of the digitization process and planning that takes place for any project, big or small.
Just because the material isn’t available online doesn’t mean you can’t see it. You are always welcome to come to the Archives and visit us at 40 Oak Street in Toronto. We would love to have you view our material.