My job managing digital capture workflows and ContentDM for the Preservation Department’s Digital Initiatives Unit includes a variety of things.
The first step in the process of getting items into our Digital Collections is to choose the collections to be added. This is a very collaborative decision-making process between the faculty and staff of Special Collections/Archives and the Preservation Department. We meet to discuss possible ideas and priorities as well as the challenges of doing everything we’d like to do with a limited staff and budget. Often, the materials that we digitize come from Special Collections. This is usually because they are unique items that nobody else has, and also because there have been requests by researchers for access to the materials. Sometimes there is an upcoming anniversary of an event that we can help to showcase.
The age and physical condition of the materials area also of concern. In many cases, the materials must be sent to Conservation to be repaired or stabilized before being digitized. In some cases, this can be a very extensive preservation process. It is hoped that through digitization we will have preserved the content of these items even if someday the physical items themselves no longer last.
While preservation is one reason for digitization, the other main reason is for access. Unique items in fragile condition can only be seen by individuals who come to our library’s Special Collections, but after we digitize them, they can be seen anytime by anybody in the world with an internet connection.
For digitization, we have a Creo iQsmart3 scanner, an Epson GT-2500 scanner, and our brand new Atiz BookDrive Pro with overhead digital cameras. After the items are digitized, the images need to be cropped. Sometimes brightness and contrast are adjusted in Photoshop in cases where text is hard to read. We save our original tiff image files for preservation purposes, and then for displaying online we may create either jpg files for photographs, drawings, and paintings, etc., or pdf files for multi-page items which are mainly text. Sometimes a pdf can then be OCR’d so the text can be searched. Many times the items we scan are hand-written letters, speeches, and diaries that need to be transcribed. Deciphering old handwriting can be a difficult and lengthy process, but after the documents have been typed up, that text will be searchable to users online. Metadata is then created which describes both the original objects and the digital images created from them.
We use CONTENTdm as our digital collection management software. It provides a variety of options for how to display and search various digital items and their accompanying metadata. Before uploading the items, settings can be chosen to display each new collection in a way that best suits the specific materials.
Taking items through this process and finishing with online collections that show the world some of the unique items that our library has takes some time and effort. In the end, the preservation of the items and the increased accessibility that digitization provides to everyone is a worthy goal.