As a medium-sized organisation with a valuable heritage archive, and possible brand identity too, how do you go about planning for the digitisation of your content? This guide seeks to offer some practical advice, points for consideration, and signpost some really informative resources to get you started.
The motivation behind digitisation has evolved and there has been a significant shift towards online accessibility, especially for medium-sized and large organisations. It is important to work out, from the start, what your long term intentions are because these should influence your early decision making, ensuring a logical, streamlined and joined-up process.
As a medium-sized organisation you will likely need to get stakeholders onboard across a number of different departments. They will all have competing priorities and demands against the organisation’s finances so you will want to think about their specific concerns in advance to understand how your project might actually benefit them.
Possible questions each department might raise:
Finance: “Digitisation is expensive, where’s the return?”
IT: “You need how many extra machines! Where are we going to store 2TB of images?”
Marketing/Communications: “It’s not our area, how does this benefit us?”
Human Resources: “It’s digitisation, why should we care?”
Management: “What will be the impact overall?”
Contemplating questions like these will help you to get stakeholder buy-in for your digitisation project.
Depending on your type of organisation, you might be able to apply for funding. It can help to know how to write a successful funding bid. The National Lottery Heritage Fund offers a number of grants that you should at least be aware of, and it’s important to learn about how to approach funding.
- What is the extent of your archive? As a medium-sized organisation it’s likely to be quite large and comprehensive.
- Your budget as a medium-sized organisation might be reasonable, yet you might still have to consider digitising in stages to stay within costs.
- Do you have mixed material types as these can slow the process and increase costs?
- What’s the condition and will any conservation measures need to be taken?
You need to decide if you will digitise in-house or outsource your project to a specialist digitisation provider. Consider the following two options:
An overview of resources and process:
Outsourcing can take the stress out of your digitisation project but specialist services do come at a cost.
- Look for quality and timing from a trusted and experienced provider – shop around.
- Your survey will establish if you need to digitise in phases.
- Check your provider is adequately insured.
- Does your provider offer a collection and return service?
- Be clear on what’s included and discuss your long term project goals to ascertain if they can help you to achieve these too. For example, help with online publishing.
- There are online quote calculators to help you estimate your digitisation costs, as well as lots of other resources.
- Talk to other organisations, learn from their experiences (and mistakes!) and reach out.
Images courtesy of TownsWeb Archiving ©
Regardless of the option you choose, similar digitisation guidelines will apply:
- Learn about the digitisation process, follow industry events, such as Heritage Collections Management 2022, watch service videos, speak to other organisations and providers, and request example digitisation projects.
- Have a digitisation plan.
- Follow the right guidance for your material type and make any necessary adjustments. For example, capture very large items at 200ppi (pixels per inch) resolution at actual size. Medium sized items can be captured at 300ppi and smaller items at 600ppi. If you are looking to offer reprints and publish online 300-600ppi will be adequate, but if you just want to capture your material for preservation purposes then 300ppi will suffice.
- Follow National Archives guidelines for digitisation for good practice.
- For preservation, greyscale will suffice but, if you want master archival images for use online, you’ll need to capture in full colour, using a colour key at the beginning of each batch. Specialist software, such as Capture 1, can be used to make manual adjustments.
- Using the wrong equipment can affect results and damage material.
- It’s also really important to appreciate and understand your legal position in terms of copyright and data protection, whether you intend to publish and share your digitised assets or not. This resource by Naomi Korn Associates provides lots of information to help you understand compliance. Here you will find a digital guide for working with volunteers, free webinars, an exploration of copyright and social media, and much more, all there to support you in meeting your legal obligations.
- You will also want to consider how your digitised content will be used and are likely to want to make this more accessible under a CC BY creative commons licence. However, it’s important to understand your funder’s accessibility requirements, which will be stated in their terms and conditions. Read working on open licences, contained in the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s (NLHF’s) guide, to explore this point further.
- It’s never too early to consider the future of your digitised assets. What are your plans post digitisation? Many people look to a DAM system as an ideal way to store, organise and manage their collections, especially where this might be quite large, while publishing platforms can take your metadata and use it to enhance the accessibility and engagement of your collections, steadily growing your online audiences.
Images courtesy of TownsWeb Archiving ©
Finally, decide what metadata you want to capture. If your priority was safeguarding and internal searching then you will want to capture the data that will enable you to do this. If you are looking to move your archive online, the data you gather will be the golden thread that connects your items and collections, enhancing their accessibility.
There are four main forms of data capture:
There is a lot to consider here but we hope that the above, along with further reading around the subject, will help to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be to take your digitisation project to the next stage. You can find many of the resources, and more, on the TownsWeb Archiving website. Best of luck!
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Please attribute as: "I’m a medium-sized heritage organisation, how do I plan for digitising my content? (2022) by Jess Sturman-Coombs supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0