Digitization to Preserve Historical Records in Museums and Libraries

by | Published on Jun 18, 2020 | Document Conversion / Scanning Services


Libraries, museums and archives are filled with many historical paper records that are centuries old, like paper documents, photographs, architectural drawings etc. Over time these paper records can get damaged due to exposure to sunlight and poor handling of records. Low quality of paper and acidic ink also plays a role in destroying the material. Preserving historical records are important because they are often the primary or only record of profound monuments, or civilization or scientific illustrations and so on. Preserving these records in digital format helps preserve fragile original objects and protects original historical documents and analogue records from deterioration and damage. Professional document scanning companies have experts who are skilled at handling fragile historical documents and converting then into digital format. Document conversion of these historical data enables access to cultural heritage easily. Today, libraries have started supporting a common collective mission of providing access to information, knowledge and resources to wider audience from anywhere at any times.

With COVID 19 stay at home orders, the need for digital transformation of library resources has become even more important. Digitizing these records will help researchers, scholars, students and other people to access this information at any time and from anywhere. Several libraries are now in the process of digitizing their records. Here are the important points to be considered when digitizing historical records:

  • Digitize the original records: Make sure that you use original documents so that the digital copies will be clean and clear. Using original documents is important not to miss out any fine details. For images, remember to use negatives for making digital copies and if the negative are of poor quality, use image prints to digitize.
  • Focus on the resolution: Digitization of historical documents should be done with appropriate resolution to ensure that the results is of optimal quality. Another advantage of digitizing at good resolution is that the original document will not need to be re-handled or re-digitized if you need a higher resolution at a later date. The ideal resolution to scan your historical documents depends upon what you what to do with the images. The documents can be digitized based on the type of documents you need or your organizational requirements. Industry standards or guidelines such as FADGI can help you decide the best scanning resolution for your project.
  • Keep a master image file: Once you start digitizing the documents, make sure that you create master image file that can be used to make further copies as per the requirement. Maintaining a separate master image file means that you always have back up of all valuable historical records. Make sure to restrict the access to the originals to prevent hacking, theft or destruction of the documents.
  • Save the original documents: After digitization, original historical paperwork should be preserved in its physical format, be it papers, magazines, manuscripts, or images. Several libraries, universities and historical organizations have digital versions of their documents as well as their originals. Students and researchers can etc get access to digital copies, but they generally want to view the original document. In such cases, they have to get special permission to study the document under supervision and with the help of the right expert. By keeping the originals, you get to increase the value of your historical documents even if they’re firmly kept in their archival storage area.
  • Seek professionals help: If you want to digitize each document with care and accuracy, the best solution is to hire document scanning services. Outsourcing companies provide several services like retouching, enhancing, brightening etc that adds value to your library resources. They have skilled professionals who can handle delicate documents with care.

Ventura County Gets Digitized

Recently, a state grant was provided that allows the Museum of Ventura County to digitize their work from 1955 to 1995, making it available sometime this spring to anyone with internet access. The 160 issues of the “Ventura County Historical Society Quarterly Journal” have only been available as hard copies and many of those are first person accounts. The first issue came out in 1955 and those early copies are dwindling and hard to find.

The grant is an initiative of the California State Library, which receives federal funding. According Deya Terrafranca, the museum’s research librarian and archives director, the estimated the value of the California Revealed grant at about $3,500, which covers the cost to convert the hundreds of journal pages to digital documents. The digitized documents will be available on the California Revealed website and eventually on the museum’s research library and archives website.

Terrafranca estimated the value of the California Revealed grant at about $3,500, which covers the cost to convert the hundreds of journal pages to digital documents. The grant is an initiative of the California State Library, which receives federal funding. Pamela Vadakan, director of California Revealed, stated that this year the program funded about 20 projects but has provided funding for up to 100 in past years. Grants vary widely depending on the project, but at least one was as much as $20,000.

Terrafranca said that digitizing the museum’s journal collection is a non-profit effort. In 2017, the museum was on the brink of closure, but its leaders made its collection more accessible as a way to reinvest the museum. According to Terrafranca, the journal project and another recent effort in collaboration with students from CSU Channel Islands, aims to digitize the museum’s vast photo collection and improve accessibility.

The main advantage of digitization is that it preserves and provides the aggregation of various resources in digital form. It helps in connecting individuals with the rich archives of public libraries and other cultural heritage and benefits both individual communities and also the nation as a whole. The process of digitization can be done easily with the help a reliable document scanning company. Document scanning needs proper planning both technically and professionally, and getting the right support can help you carry out your project efficiently.

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