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Digitization of Archival Records Helps to Preserve The Past

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Today’s society is largely dependent on computers and technology for personal, academic and business operations. One of the greatest advantages offered by technology is digitization that has made it possible to preserve rare historical records in electronic form. Libraries, museums, hospitals and many other organizations are now into document scanning and conversion of their valuable data with the help of data conversion services.

Digitization involves producing an electronic image of your analogue records – paper documents such as old maps and letters; cassette tapes and so on. It facilitates access to old and disintegrating records that are converted into electronic form and can be accessed even from distant and multiple locations. A major advantage of digitizing historical records is that the originals can be spared from repeated handling and fast deterioration.

Digitization of Archival Records

Archivists embarking on digitization projects involving two-dimensional archival records such as paper documents and photographs face certain challenges, as highlighted in a peelarchivesblog.com article. These include:

  • Large volume material and different-sized documents: Archives typically hold a vast amount of material, with the boxes kept on the shelves holding between 700 to 1800 individual pieces of paper and numerous photographs, slides, and negatives. Another problem is the difficulty to scan archival record groups with different dimensions. Automatic feeders used to scan stacks of pages will work only with same-sized pages in good condition. Fragile records may have to be manually scanned and there are many tasks associated with scanning. These include removing staples and positioning the item, to processing images and entering metadata. The process becomes more tedious if the records in a file are in various sizes and shapes because constant readjustments have to be made to scanning parameters. Very large images may have to be scanned in parts, and then digitally put together.
  • Capturing physical evidence: Scanning may not produce an exact copy of the original record. When there are numerous useful annotations in the margins of records or on the backs of photographs, it is necessary to think about whether and how these evidences should be digitally captured. Physical characteristics such as thickness and type of paper used, enclosures and so on may also be significant to understand the past, but are difficult to convey in a digital file.
  • Ensuring quality: The electronic files created must adequately represent the archival originals and so the process involves quality control checks. The quality of the final product depends on factors such as scanning resolution, photographic skill and typing accuracy among others. Archivists are committed to ensuring that people are getting an authentic and reliable view of the original records based on which important decisions may have to be made.

Once the documents are digitized they are uploaded online. Digitized materials are much more accessible to people than physical documents that face storage issues and deterioration. These scanned documents can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection, which can eliminate travel time and expense. Digitization ensures:

  • Excellent preservation strategy
  • Access to various types of collections
  • Space and cost savings

A recent example of a huge digitization project is that initiated by the genealogy and DNA testing company Ancestry in the USA. They have digitized millions of records of people who were displaced or persecuted in the Holocaust and the data has been made available online at no cost. Genealogists specialized in Jewish family history are enthusiastic about this development, though they are not sure how useful the data would be.  The records include those of millions of displaced people such as Holocaust survivors and former concentration camp inmates who had left Germany and other parts of Europe during the period 1946 to 1971 via ports and airports. In addition, there are records of millions of people with non-German citizenship imprisoned in camps or otherwise living in Germany and other German-occupied territories from 1939 to 1947.

Apart from helping people locate and learn more about their ancestors, this information is also useful as documentation proof for the financial compensation the German government and Dutch railway offer to victims.

Digital preservation of critical data including government records and private records has become a common standard in many organizations. Archival record digitization services have increased in demand over the past few years. These services help to scan and store data on the cloud and the original fragile and rare documents can be safely maintained. Partnering with a professional service provider offers the following benefits as well.

  • Delivers high-quality images on time and on budget while maintaining the integrity of the original material.
  • The digital files are provided in the format best suited for the client.
  • The advanced scanning equipment used helps avoid any kind of damage to precious documents and provide efficient digitization of large volumes of work.
  • A dedicated manifesto that allows for strong communication between client and the service provider regarding the condition of materials and the constant tracking of materials.

Document scanning or imaging is the first step towards digitization. Any organization on the path of digital transformation as well as those planning to implement digitization of archival records can benefit from the service of a profession document scanning company.

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