In the earlier days, important documents were written on parchments. Parchments are writing materials made from animal skin. The Declaration of Independence was written on parchment. Another common writing material was Papyrus derived from a plant. These writing materials can survive for over 500 years but when exposed to heat or cold, they gradually degrade. To prevent deterioration, digitization and document conversion is essential. That is why many historical societies and museums around the world are involved in document preservation and restoration via document scanning and digitization projects. It helps to preserve the past and make valuable documents easily accessible to those who need them.
Advanced Technology Utilized for Valuable Applications
The use of technology has become a core part of many institutions and is essential for the electronic preservation of valuable historical documents. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a government agency that identifies, preserves and provides access to the US Government’s holdings of archival materials. These records are preserved to protect citizens’ rights, ensure government responsibility and document the national experience. They have around 12 billion pages of unique documents, electronic materials, maps, charts, aerial and still photographs, artifacts, motion pictures, sound and video recordings. Their mission is to drive candidness, promote public participation and strengthen the nation’s democracy through public access. Other objectives are:
- Provide public access to the most important archival materials of the federal government
- Connect with customers
- Maximize NARA’s value to the nation
- Build future through the people
Digitizing NARA’s archival and important historical materials is integral to achieving these goals.
In projects such as the above, technology plays a very important role enabling better understanding of collection materials, identifying important issues, and helping to prevent further changes or degradation. Latest technological advances include hyperspectral imaging that unveils fine details of ancient maps and texts that are not visible to the human eye. This is utilized in the Library of Congress that is striving to prevent the degradation of their most valuable holdings. Most paper documents are digitized, but the library takes painstaking efforts to also protect the originals. The greatest challenge libraries housing historical documents face is the difficulty to make all required documents accessible and available, while at the same time struggling to preserve them as well. Among the documents the Library of Congress has digitized are Waldseemuller map of the world created in 1507, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The originals are preserved within encasements that would safely protect these valuable documents.
Benefits of Digitizing Historical Documents
- Enables to view the documents in high resolution
- Provides more information about the past to the future generation
- Preserves original photos and other valuable documents from degradation
- Provides wider accessibility of information through the Internet to anyone at any time
- Helps people to know more about a nation’s rich culture, customs and traditions and historic importance
Valuable documents are first scanned using a high quality scanner. Sophisticated scanning equipment with excellent features and performance both in terms of software and hardware are used for the purpose. For efficient scanning of documents, a scanner should have the following features.
- High resolution quality, image optimization and rotation for better viewing of the picture
- Scan large volumes of documents at a time without damage
- Scan documents, negatives, slides and various other items
With increased need for digitization, scanning technology also continues to evolve, and is becoming more reliable, faster, and more affordable. When large volume scanning is involved, utilizing document conversion services is the practical way of ensuring efficient, accurate and speedy scanning of documents, as well as efficient storage, retrieval, searching, preservation and transmission of documentation.