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Digitization standards will aid users

December 16, 2014

2004_microfilm_reader_1117365851If you have ever done research using microfilm (I once heard it described as “God’s torture for historians”), you know the quality of each reel varies. Not until 1979 – several decades after it started being used – were the first microfilming standards adopted.

Fast forward to today. Some of the early digitized content is problematic. Some was digitized with the goal of immediate access using little space. Other has been digitized with preservation in mind, using perhaps lots of electronic space. Some now is being re-digitized because the original work was of poor quality or it is a format that has not proved sustainable.

Many studies have explored the technical side of digitization. Now, with efforts regionally and nationally to create sites that compile digitized material from archives, museums and libraries, standardized minimum digitization standards are being considered.

One set of recommendations drawing interest in Oregon is from the preservation and reformatting section of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. In fact, a task force has recommended to Oregon’s Library Services and Technology Act advisory council that it use these ALCTS standards when evaluating grant applications for digitization.

The recommendations cover books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, audio, video and other formats. Are you meeting these standards? What will it take for your organization to meet them? How can the Heritage Commission assist you?

(Kyle Jansson is coordinator of the Oregon Heritage Commission.)

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