Digitization and the Archives

Hello everyone!! I appreciate you coming back and reading my blog. This past week was pretty much business as usual. It was also a short week because of my vacation to New England. Because of that I’ve decided to focus on a general archival topic instead. That being digitization of archival materials. Obviously, this is a throughly researched and academic topic, and I am not an expert, but I do see value in sharing some of my personal observations and opinions.

When I talk with people about becoming an archivist, or mentioning that I am in library school, it is immediate followed by some comment about how libraries and archives are becoming obsolete do to digitization. That everything is becoming available online.

I am here to tell you that that is not the case.

There are several reasons for this, and I will run through a few of them quickly. First, as more material becomes digital and accessible from greater distance, there will still be a need for information professionals in archives to help provide access and contextualize the materials in the digital collection.

Secondly, even if you can make something digital, it does not always make a proper replacement to the original materials. This is especially true when it comes to older materials. When researching older materials touching and feeling the physical document cannot be supplemented with a digital copy.

Lastly, I think it is important to talk about the large amount of resources it takes to digitize an institutions materials. When thinking about the large amount of hours to takes to scan something, the money for the scanners and software to run the scanners, and the people to do the work in the first place. And this is just considering paper materials, when digitizing film or video it takes even more work.

I know of archives that employ people to just scan their materials as full time job. Recently, I have been scanning photographs and have spent a few 9 hour days just scanning photographs, and that is not taking into account the time to describe and upload the photos so they are available for use.

There are definitely several other things to consider, and multiple schools of thought surrounding all of it. I hope that this encourages discussion, questions, and thinking about the issues surrounding digitizing archival collections.

Published by mddarlin

Just a Library School student from Indiana University, Bloomington trying to become a professional archivist.

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    1. Yeah, there are a lot of different things to consider. It is not a completely cut and dry situation.

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