What is digital preservation?
Digital preservation imaging involves more than simply scanning or photographing an item. It requires applying top standards to the imaging process and thereby producing digital images that will last as technology changes over time. Maintaining the highest digitization standards will mitigate the potential need to re-digitize materials at a future date, should the evolution of web technology render a particular format obsolete. During the digitization process, an archival preservation copy of each digital image is created. This high-resolution TIFF file must meet current digital imaging preservation standards by ensuring that the longest edge of any type of item is 6,000 pixels. These large digital files must be stored in a secure environment that maintains a connection between the file and any related files or catalog information.
Low-resolution versions of those items, referred to as web derivative files, must then be created. In 2020, the most common examples of these are JPGs or PDFs. The purpose of these files is to allow web browsers or computers to load them quickly for easy viewing.
Producing these two levels of files – archival master TIFFs for long-term digital preservation and lower resolution web derivatives for easy viewing – is only the first step of saving our history. If these files are simply stored on a computer, server or cloud storage, but cannot be located without opening and viewing each individual file, they are doomed to disappear into the digital dumping ground of the future.
What’s involved with creating a digital archive?
Building a digital archive involves three key steps: strategy, preservation quality imaging, and meticulous tagging. HistoryIT will review your archival holdings – either remotely via questionnaires and video conference or onsite. Some portion of your historical materials will be transferred to a HistoryIT Digital Preservation Lab for conversion into archival quality master files. This assures true digital preservation for generations to come. We will then rehouse all of the materials in archive-safe housing, so that the physical artifacts are preserved as well. HistoryIT will either transport the organized archives back to the organization or work with representatives to add the archival materials to a college, university or other local archive to care for their long-term preservation.
HistoryIT will set up an account for your digital archive in Odyssey™, our digital archive management platform. Our metadata professionals will ingest all newly digitized materials into your digital archive, complete with detailed descriptions and subject, event, location and era tags. Every identified person will be tagged.
All packages produce a report, guide and/or plan for growing and maintaining your digital archive.
What occurs when a HistoryIT expert conducts an on site assessment?
If selected, a HistoryIT expert will travel to you to work closely with your physical archive and meet with interested parties in person. While on site, the expert will review any materials already organized into some sort of storage space. They will meet with selected stakeholders to discuss historical materials and where else locally they may be hiding. A portion, or in some cases all, of your archive will be transported to a HistoryIT Digital Preservation Lab for conversion into archival quality master files. This assures true digital preservation for generations to come. We will then rehouse all of the materials in archive-safe housing, so that the physical artifacts are preserved as well. HistoryIT will either transport the organized archives back to your organization or work with representatives to add the archival materials to a college, university or other local archive to care for their long-term preservation.
In collaboration with organizational representatives, HistoryIT will also reach out to key parties with a call to share any materials they may be holding. These materials will be returned to individual donors should they wish. Alternatively, they will be housed along with your archive.
If your archive’s size exceeds your initial agreement, HistoryIT will provide a detailed plan to add the remaining items in future phases.
What if we don’t have an archive now?
Just because you don’t have what you might envision as a formal archive, we promise you have history! And we will help you find it. A large portion of it is likely digital! In that case, the goal will be to compile various digital formats. HistoryIT will connect with your organization’s representatives, in person or remotely, to gather any physical and digital items they have to include.
Why is it so expensive to create a digital archive?
Creating a digital archive involves far more than simply scanning or photographing material. When undergoing digital preservation, quality imaging is critical. Specific guidelines must be followed in order to generate high resolution images that meet certain light, color and focus specifications. The goal of digital preservation imaging is to produce a file that is as close a replica of the original artifact as is possible to create.
Once the imaging stage is complete, actual digitization begins. To make your digital collection meaningful, people must be able to find and navigate your digital records. This requires creating searchable information that describes each image. Without this important, but involved step, you simply have a haystack of digital needles. HistoryIT tags every single person in the digital archive, as well as provides tags for subjects, events, locations and eras. Our approach allows online visitors to find linkages among the items, and easily view or read the digitized original item.
Are there any ongoing costs to maintain the digital archive?
Yes. An annual fee is required for your digital archive software license, which allows you to access, manage, expand and share digital artifacts. Multi-year licenses for a discount are available.
Can’t we just scan and add our materials?
We work to create and facilitate digital preservation projects, as well as online digital histories. Building a digital archive with digital preservation files provides security into the future. We need to create all digital items at the same high standard in order to fully preserve them for the future. Once the items have been imaged, HistoryIT – or your volunteers – must create all of the descriptive metadata and tags in a consistent manner as the rest of the collection.