Planning Your First Digitization Project
We invite institutions to contribute to New York Heritage (NYH) via digitization of related objects curated from a collection. Before beginning your first project, use this guide to ensure you also have the necessary resources:
- Who will do the conversion from physical object to digital image? Staff? Volunteers? Interns? Will you outsource this task?
- What equipment is needed? Will purchasing new equipment be necessary?
- Where will the conversion be done? Do you have a secure and comfortable place to work?
- Is the collection already described? If the items you are considering have little or no description, then metadata creation will take substantially longer.
If you do not have enough staff hours or appropriate scanning equipment to complete the project you have in mind, consider embarking on a smaller project, seeking out a grant, or discussing your plans with the NNYLN.
Selecting Materials for NYH
What type of projects should you do? Some questions to think about:
- What materials warrant increased access?
- Which items are popular or have repeated requests?
- What is difficult to access? Challenging formats, fragile materials?
- Which materials are of value? Do you own unique materials that are not available anywhere else? What about materials not currently available online?
- NYH would like to highlight items of regional interest. If you are unsure about where to begin, check out our NYH Topics List.
- Finally, consider copyright issues.
Copyright and/or ownership issues to be aware of:
Whenever possible, the holding institution or repository provides all known information about copyright owners and other restrictions in the information, or metadata, associated with digital items. The holding institution provides this information to assist users in determining the copyright status of an item. NYH also provides a general copyright information statement on its website for users.
The nature of historical, archival and manuscript collections often make it difficult to determine the exact copyright status of an item. There are many issues related to copyright. See the NYH training page for a list of resources that can help you to determine the copyright status of the materials in your collections.
Your Organization’s Responsibilities
Contributing organizations are responsible for:
- Creating the digital files (e.g., scanning or transferring audio or video clips to a digital file, etc.)
You can create the digital images at your organization if you own or have access to a scanner or borrow the NNYLN ScanKit. You can also outsource the work to a digital imaging vendor. These vendors can only create some of the technical metadata associated with the newly digitized image.
- Creating the descriptive information about the object (i.e. the metadata)
Select a person who is knowledgeable about your collection to create the descriptive metadata. They will be trained by your regional library council on how to create the metadata and how to adhere to the NYH metadata style guidelines. The information about the original resource may be in a library online catalog or an archive automated system like the PastPerfect museum software. This information may serve as a starting place to build the metadata records for your collection.
- Uploading the digital files and metadata to the NYH server
The last step in the process is to approve and upload your records to the NYH server. Typically this final step is performed by your NYH council liaison.
Questions to Ask Before Starting a Digitization Project
1) What is your purpose?
- For what purpose do you want to use the digitized materials and what are the benefits of having this collection in digital form? Is there a demand for the content of these materials in digital form? What are the goals of your project/what do you hope to accomplish?
- Is the main goal increased access or decreased handling of fragile originals (preservation)? Or both? Will the digital images replace or supplement existing originals?
- Will the digitized materials complement existing collections in online or print form, or might they fill a lack of digitized materials in a certain unique subject or topical area?
2) Who is your audience?
- Who is your intended audience? This will determine the parameters of the project at all stages of digitization.
- Often your audience can be divided into primary (in your service area), secondary (related to your service area), and tertiary (Internet users at large) user groups.
- What are the needs of your users and how can you best serve them? This question may apply to modes of access, what search features and web interfaces will be most helpful to your users, what types of browsing might be appropriate, how users intend to use the information, scanning practices appropriate to intended use of the materials, etc.
- Will your audience be local or global? Will access be restricted or password protected?
3) What are the physical characteristics of the collection?
- What is the physical condition, format (negatives, black and white, color, text and graphics, etc.), quality (for resolution), and size are the materials? Do you have the capability to scan oversize materials?
4) Who owns it?
- Copyright is important and it is essential to understand issues of ownership and intellectual property rights. Determine who owns the materials, whether they are in the public domain, or if not, can permissions be secured?
5) What is your timeframe?
- This is an important consideration, especially for grant-funded projects. Determine a project schedule broken down into proposed durations, including milestones and expected completion dates.
6) How is the project being funded?
- Have you secured a funding source or considered local, state, national, philanthropic, or collaborative sources?
- What parts of the project will funding support? (Physical resources, hardware, software, personnel, dedicated space, vendor services, etc.)
- What about plans for maintaining access into the future (ongoing costs)?
7) How will you perform the actual digitization?
- Where will the digitizing take place and are there adequate, safe storage facilities?
- What is the level of image quality (resolution) you hope to obtain?
- What is your criteria for an "acceptable image" when performing quality control?
- What are the limitations of your hardware and software (file size, file format standards, proprietary file formats, interoperability, scanner limitations, etc.)?
8) What metadata scheme are you planning to use?
- What type of description already exists for the collection, and at what level (item level, collection level, etc.)?
- What metadata or finding aid scheme do you plan to use (Dublin Core, MARC, VRA, EAD, etc.)?
- If there are several versions of an original, which version will you catalog?
9) How are you planning to maintain the collection into the future?
- How do you plan to store archival images and where?
- What kind of a backup mechanism do you have in place in case of hardware/software failure?
- What plans have you considered for data migration and refreshment?
- What level of long-term institutional commitment have you secured for your project?
- Do you have funding resources secured for maintenance of the digitized collection into the future?
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