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Digital Projects Toolkit: Digitization

Digitization/ Scanning

Digitization 101

Digitization is the conversion of text, pictures, sound, etc. into a digital form that can be processed by a computer. It is one step in the digital lifecycle.

Digitization, or scanning, is all about access. The goal is to create an accurate digital copy of the original analog/ physical material. With that in mind, it is important to remember that digitization is NOT preservation. Digitization complements (but does not replace) the original item. So, do not discard the original analog/ physical materials after digitization. Their proper care, storage, and preservation also needs to be maintained.

Digitization Standards

Best Practices of Digitization

Some of the golden rules of digitization include:

  • Do it right the first time (high quality, proper format, etc.)
    • Take your time and do things carefully/ correctly. If you have to rescan an item, it takes more time and effort.
    • Make sure all of the settings are what you want and check each image after you have scanned in order to make sure no mistakes were made.
    • Follow the appropriate standards/ best practices.
  • Not everything can (or should) be digitized
    • No one has the time or resources to digitize everything.
    • Decide what is important. What is unique? Do the items provide value?
  • Pick your digitization standards, or benchmarks, before starting
    • You want to digitize at the best quality that you can afford.
  • Have the full plan in mind (organization method, file naming, format, preservation, etc.)
    • Before you start your project, you should have a plan in place (a plan the covers the start to the finish). You do not want to have to go back and redo everything (remember the first golden rule: do it right the first time).
    • Consult the Project Planning page for more information. Also consult the "Workflow" tab on this page.
Digitization Workflow

Digitization is only one step in the digital process/ lifecycle. This one step is further broken down into multiple components (or workflow). A workflow is a useful tool that can be used to provide consistency and streamline the tasks involved in a digitization project. A workflow can also be used to track progress and identify any potential errors.

There are many different digitization workflows available online, but the one developed by the Wisconsin Historical Society

The following steps and information are adapted from their digitization workflow.

  1. Planning
  2. Capture/ scanning/ digitizing
    • Calibrate your hardware and software (adjust their settings)
    • Preview the scan
    • Scan and create an appropriate file name
    • Save in a proper file format
  3. Primary quality control
    • Review the saved digital files on a regular basis (especially when working with vendors or volunteers).
    • Basic quality control includes confirming:
      • The file can be opened
      • The file is clear and/or readible
      • The file name is correct and follows protocol
      • The correct number of pages and files (especially when scanning books)
      • The scan is not backwards, rotated, skewed or crooked
      • There are no unwanted items (such as dust, hair, or fingers)
  4. Editing
    • Crop, rotate, etc.
    • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
    • If applicable, added metadata to the file.
  5. Secondary quality control
    • A second review of the files should be conducted to catch any additional errors or defects that may have been missed.
    • If you have a small number of items, review all of them,. If you have a large number of files, it is common to do a sampling, or 10%.
  6. Storage, management, & preservation
    • Create access copies
    • Add to dedicate storage
    • Regular back up and monitoring
    • Consult the Preservation page for more information.
Resources on Digitization
Digitizing Special Materials

This section focus on the digitizing of "special materials." These are materials other than the average photograph or document, which are covered in other areas or pages of this toolkit.

This section provides information on the digitization of:

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.