Document Scanning and Imaging for Museum Digitization

by | Published on Aug 21, 2015 | Document Conversion / Scanning Services

Document Scanning and ImagingDocument scanning and imaging services particularly have relevance in art and culture. That’s because the most glowing examples of digitization drives are museums.

The Internet had already brought to light the need for freely accessible content brought down from the high pedestals of exclusivity and scholarship. But it’s only now that museums all over the world are realizing that greater appreciation for art comes through greater accessibility.

Digitizing Paintings and Artwork

If document conversion and digitization are exhaustive, digitizing artworks is more so and could take years to be completed and made available for viewing online. Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum has already made many of its artworks available for free, high-resolution download. The museum has made 25% of its collection digitized and available this way, while new images keep getting added with the museum aiming to get all its one million exhibits digitized by 2020.

And these aren’t paintings alone but artworks that include pottery and clothing as well. This increases the effort involved, since they can’t be scanned like documents. The process first requires photographing of the object in various forms. However, the Smithsonian Museum has developed automated methods such as conveyor belt scanning with which it has captured 2.2 million of its 138 million exhibits.

Exhaustive Process for Museums

The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford has been doing it manually though, with thousands of objects already having been photographed through sessions held five days of the week. The process has been going on for five years with the aim to include the collection in an online database. The motive behind Cantor’s effort is to know what it needs to acquire further, in addition to providing greater access for students, scholars and faculty, and getting a good assessment of the existing collection.

Digitization for Better Access to the Past

Digitizing public archives though, serves another purpose as well – increasing transparency, giving people the true picture of things that have happened in the past. The 110-year old Delaware Public Archives is digitizing its records and with good reason too – it is one of the country’s oldest public archives with records dating back to the 1600s and involving matters related to the colonial trade.

Digitization opens the door for the public to access such history lessons, some of which could be sensitive. Preservation is also ensured with digitization since such old paper documents could easily get torn when removed from their stacks.

How to Go about a Digitization Drive

Many digitization drives such as these are outsourced. When it comes to documents, the process involves scanning and conversion to digital formats, while, as mentioned before, objects in museums need to be photographed first before they are scanned. Newspaper editions and related manuscripts also require indexing. It could be too much for a library to handle, but it all boils down to costs and efficiency.

If outsourcing could get the job done more cost-effectively without compromising on efficiency, it would certainly seem an attractive option though, as seen above, some museums come up with their own ways of doing it.

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