Our ten-part series of Facebook posts leading up to New Year’s highlighted some of the accomplishments here at the Provincial Archives after our move into the new state-of-the-art repository. This year, we plan, of course, to continue public outreach, scholarly initiatives, exhibits, and preservation of our treasures. Yet we’d be doing ourselves and our collections a grave professional disservice were we not to steer ourselves toward new state-of-the-art technologies and digitization.
Digitization is actually a familiar concept. Imagine you have an old photograph that you’d like to preserve so you take it to be scanned. The scanner makes a digital copy of the original that is then either printed out as a new paper copy or given back on storage media like a CD or jump drive. Now think of the photographs taken with a digital camera or phone. These are different since they are “born digital,” not originally on film or paper; they too can be either printed out or put on storage media. This same scenario can apply to documents. Scan a birth certificate and send it as an e-mail attachment. The original paper certificate has become a digitized object (perhaps a .pdf file) while the e-mail, created by typing it on a computer, is “born digital.”
To be sure, these examples oversimplify archival digitization. After careful appraisal of collections, archivists arrive at strategic digitization plans that generally comprise multiple projects. Selection of programs and technologies is the next step; before copying the first image, archivists need to make informed decisions about software, storage, and management systems that will preserve the newly-digitized items for years to come. To do this correctly, we’re “doing our homework.” Carole Prietto is working on the Society of American Archivists’ Digital Archives Specialist certificate and Dee Gallo is taking courses in Digital Stewardship. Meanwhile, Nik Henle is working with the ArchivesSpace community, an online information management program. Over the next year, the entire staff will be balancing traditional archival work with implementing the new digital initiative.
How will you, our followers, be affected by digitization? We will be able to create better online exhibits and join other repositories in digital scholarship by producing the best high-resolution images with the latest technology. We’ll also be able to share these images (with permissions) with scholars and, after creating new and more easily searchable finding aids, link images directly to individual catalogue records! We will also use digital scans to create facsimiles for onsite exhibits and protect our most valuable treasures by serving scans as surrogates in our reading room.
So, our two goals for 2014 will be to make collections more accessible and preserve them for the future. And that all boils down to that one single New Year’s resolution: digitization!