How Do You Digitize Archival Materials?

“Digitizing” any physical material is the act of creating a digital copy that can be displayed on desktop and portable devices. For paper documents, this generally entails scanning. For video or audio materials, digitization requires encoding it into a  digital format that can be played on any phone, computer, or tablet.

Most institutions seeking to digitize archival materials have a few fundamental goals:

  • Capture the materials as they are today before any further degradation can occur
  • Safeguard digital files on the cloud for future study and analysis
  • Improve accessibility so everyone who is approved to do so can access the materials wherever they are
  • Allow multiple users to access the same materials
  • Protect the physical items from damage caused by future use
  • Enhance transparency and make materials easier to share
  • Assign detailed metadata to efficiently categorize materials and create hierarchical relationships with related materials

The process to digitize materials generally requires:

  1. Create a plan and organize the documents, cassettes, discs, photographs or any other materials you need to digitize
  2. Scan documents and photos and use any necessary converters to digitize audio or video files
  3. Apply desired metadata to those digital files
  4. Create a record in your Soutron database
  5. Upload documents and images with full metadata (multiple versions can be added to a single record)
  6. Prepare and safely store hardcopies of all digitized materials

The process, especially the early steps, can vary greatly based on the materials being digitized.

For example, if you were attempting to digitize wax cylinders, you’d likely have to embark upon a detail-oriented process of:

  1. Physical assessment of each cylinder
  2. Notetaking on imperfections
  3. Temperature acclimation
  4. Careful cleaning with the proper tools
  5. Choosing the right stylus for the cylinder
  6. Running the wax cylinder through whatever device is best suited for your needs
  7. Putting the audio from the device through a preamp with the output going into a computer for encoding
  8. Properly packaging and storing the physical wax cylinders

Digitization can be time consuming depending on the age, fragility and rarity of the materials you need to archive. A business that just needs to scan documents or a law firm that needs to digitize taped depositions would take a a different approach compared to historical organizations that may want to digitize centuries-old photographs or documents.

The tools you might use to digitize archival materials vary depending on the type of media. There are many USB to composite or cassette converters, but the specific method an organization uses may vary based on the quality they’re seeking, the condition of the physical media and the various production standards they want to apply or maintain.

Multiple variations of materials might be required, such as a preservation master, production master and produced formats for end-user consumption. Depending on the purpose of the archive, an organization may need to associate multiple separate files with a single record.

The Process of Adding Records

Record and metadata creation in a Soutron database is straightforward and can be customized based on organizational requirements.

For example, if you wished to add an item to the online archive, you can include a collection reference, title, subject, terms, contributor, extended description, condition notes, various date fields such as reference dates and date the item was digitized. You can also add digital object URLs if you are adding references or comments hosted on a trusted 3rd party source or attach documents to the record.

Multiple files can be attached to a single record. At this point you can add a copyright notice or set permissions for access to the documents you’re attaching. You can also manage security separately for each document you’re attaching to a record and choose whether the document is confidential, restricted or open access.

What Makes Soutron Archive Management Solution the Ideal Organizational Tool?

Soutron’s platform can help your organization meet all your primary digitization goals.

  • Adding records is easy and intuitive
  • The software is compatible with a variety of data exchange formats (CSV, XML, MARC) and allows for the inclusion of rich metadata
  • You can set your own hierarchical relationship between entries
  • There are a variety of security and control features to limit the accessibility of records
  • The search functionality is easy to use and can be customized based on the needs of your company or the end users
  • Adding and updating fields, record and content types is completely under your control and simple to apply
  • All content stored within Soutron Archive is fully backed up

Organizations that want to see in action should contact us for a free online demonstration.

Stay informedStay Informed with Soutron!

Enter your name and email below to get our latest Soutron articles delivered straight to your Inbox.

Your permission to stay in touch with Soutron Global
I consent to receiving future communications from Soutron Global, the latest information on our products and solutions for libraries, archives, knowledge and information centres by the following methods. Please tick:

Note: We always respect your privacy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Like and Share this article today!