Digitizing Special Formats

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This list of resources has been curated by the Digital Library Federation for the benefit of cultural heritage professionals planning projects involving the digitization of rare and unique materials. Applicants to the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives [1] program of the Council on Library and Information Resources [2] may find these helpful in planning project proposals.

Rather than providing comprehensive coverage, this list includes introductory and reference materials that are good places to begin an exploration of issues of broad import to digitizing cultural heritage materials.

If you would like to suggest a resource for inclusion on this page, send your suggestion to DigiWiki@clir.org. The DLF is currently seeking professionals from DLF member institutions who would like to participate in a curatorial group to develop and maintain the content of this page. Prospective volunteers for this group should also send expressions of interest to DigiWiki@clir.org.


General Resources

The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (or FADGI) [3] is a collaboratively maintained clearinghouse of information related to digitization, from project planning [4], to digital file formats [5], to technical specifications [6]. FADGI was launched in 2007 under the auspices of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). Two groups of professionals from federal agencies develop FADGI outcomes: (1) the Still Image Working Group [7] produces guidelines for creating digital images of cultural heritage materials; and (2) the Audio-Visual Working Group [8] covers the digitization of analog audio and audiovisual recordings as well as the digital reformatting of born-digital audio or audiovisual content. http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) [9] developed the Principles to Guide Vendor/Publisher Relations in Large-Scale Digitization Projects of Special Collections Materials [10] in 2010 to help institutions build strong working relationships with commercial partners while creating broad access to their collections. http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/principles_large_scale_digitization.pdf

Working with the Digital Library Federation [11] Assessment Group, Joyce Chapman at the State Library of North Carolina developed the Library Digitization Cost Calculator [12] using data collected by Duke University, the University of Alabama, and the Triangle Research Libraries Network. The tool can help professionals create rough estimates for still image digitization of archival collections. http://statelibrarync.org/plstats/digitization_calculator.php

A number of cultural heritage institutions and professionals have created videos about their digitization work for YouTube [13].

Format-Specific Resources


The EU-based IMPACT Project (IMProving ACcess to Text) [14] provides useful documentation and case studies related to mass digitization of text, optical character recognition (OCR), and estimating digitization costs and storage. http://www.impact-project.eu/taa/strat/pilot-tools

Best Practices for TEI in Libraries [15] provides a recent (2011) overview of possible approaches to incorporating encoded text into large-scale digitization projects. http://www.tei-c.org/SIG/Libraries/teiinlibraries/


The Guidelines and Resources [16] page on the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) website [17] provides information about best practices for digitizing newspapers and making newspaper content broadly accessible and discoverable. The NDNP is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress. The NEH operates the National Digital Newspaper funding initiative [18], which offers grants specifically for newspaper digitization. http://www.loc.gov/ndnp/guidelines/

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) [19] maintains the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) [20] database, which contains issue and holdings data for nearly 170,000 publications [21] dating from the seventeenth century through the present. The ICON project also includes a directory of digitization efforts around the globe [22]. CRL is actively seeking new contributors to the ICON database; they invite feedback about the project through the database website [23]. http://icon.crl.edu

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) [24] maintains a list of links to best practices for digitizing newspapers and serials. http://www.ifla.org/node/6777

Rare Books & Manuscripts

The International Federation of Library Associations [25] (IFLA) Rare Book and Special Collections Section [26] published its Guidelines for Planning the Digitization of Rare Book and Manuscript Collections [27] in 2014, covering project design, metadata creation, dissemination, and project assessment. http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/rare-books-and-manuscripts/rbms-guidelines/ifla_guidelines_for_planning_the_digitization_of_rare_book_and_manuscripts_collections_september_2014.pdf


The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) Core Standard Specification [28] is a widely used metadata standard for describing photographs and includes details about embedding metadata into digital image files. http://www.iptc.org/cms/site/index.html?channel=CH0099

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a community of research libraries and image repositories collaboratively developing applications and application programming interfaces that can produce an interoperable technology and community framework for image delivery. http://iiif.io/about.html

Audio and Audiovisual Recordings

The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age [29] is a report commissioned by the National Recording Preservation Board [30] of the Library of Congress that gives an overview of the complex legal and technical issues facing the preservation of recorded sound. The Board itself also maintains an Audio Preservation Bibliography [31]. http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/reports/pub148

New York consulting company AVPreserve [32] maintains a useful list of publications and presentations on tools and techniques for the preservation of audiovisual media [33]. http://www.avpreserve.com/avpsresources/papers-and-presentations/

A San Francisco nonprofit, the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) [34] has developed a set of Quality Control Tools for Video Preservation [35]. http://www.bavc.org/qctools


A list of National Geospatial Program Standards and Specifications [36] appears on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) [37] National Map Project website [38]. http://nationalmap.gov/standards/index.html


The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) [39] aggregates the metadata of digital collections held in educational and cultural heritage institutions across the United States. Institutions with large digital collections may contribute data as Content Hubs [40], while smaller organizations may contribute through local or regional Service Hubs [41]. Contributors must abide by the DPLA's data policies [42] in order to participate. See also: An Introduction to the DPLA Metadata Model (pdf) [43]; The DPLA Metadata Application Profile [44]; DPLA Metadata Aggregation Webinar Recording, 1/22/15 [45]. http://dp.la/

Many DPLA Service Hubs and their partners provide useful documentation and links to tools for metadata normalization, quality control, and aggregation through their project websites.

--Digitization Guidelines, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center [46]: http://www.digitalnc.org/about/policies/digitization-guidelines/

--DPLA aggregation tools on GitHub, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center: https://github.com/ncdhc

--Setting Up a Repository for Harvest, Mountain West Digital Library [47]: http://mwdl.org/getinvolved/repository_setup.php

--Portal Partners Page, The Portal to Texas History [48]: http://www.library.unt.edu/digital-projects-unit/our-partners

The Print Archives Preservation Registry (PAPR) [49] collects information about serial titles, print holdings, and archiving terms and conditions. It is a valuable resource for assessing the uniqueness of serial collections and determining the degree of need for digitization of those collections. http://papr.crl.edu


The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) [50] is an international directory of academic open access repositories, useful for those seeking options for depositing digital collections or models for developing new digital repositories. http://www.opendoar.org/index.html

The Internet Archive [51] website links to a wealth of relevant information about repositories, copyright and intellectual property, web archiving, and large-scale data storage under "Related Projects and Research" [52]. Internet Archive also offers digitization and repository services for institutions building and maintaining digital collections. https://archive.org/about/#research

The Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist (TRAC) [53] describes the characteristics of secure and sustainable digital repository management. http://www.crl.edu/archiving-preservation/digital-archives/metrics-assessing-and-certifying/trac


Thanks to the WikiProject Digital Preservation [54], the information about digital preservation on Wikipedia [55] is substantial and current. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_preservation

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) [56] has published the 2015 NDSA National Agenda for Digital Stewardship [57], which provides a broad overview of current "challenges, opportunities, gaps, and trends" related to building and maintaining digital collections in the United States. See also: The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation [58]. http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/ndsa/documents/2015NationalAgenda.pdf

The Sustainability of Digital Formats page [59] provides detailed descriptions and notes on sustainability issues for hundreds of digital file formats [60]. http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/intro/intro.shtml

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) [61] has compiled a Digital Preservation Reading List [62] that provides a thorough introduction to the challenges of digital preservation as they relate to cultural heritage collections. Additional links to resources related to digital preservation are provided on NEDCC's website [63]. https://www.nedcc.org/assets/media/documents/DigiPres_Biblio_Digital_Directions_2014_update.pdf

From Theory to Action: “Good Enough” Digital Preservation Solutions for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions (2014) is a white paper compiling the results of a three-year study of affordable, scalable digital preservation solutions suitable for under-resourced organizations. http://commons.lib.niu.edu/handle/10843/13610

Digital Preservation Management: Short-Term Strategies for Long-Term Problems is a tutorial created by Cornell University Libraries with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is now hosted by the MIT Libraries: http://www.dpworkshop.org/dpm-eng/eng_index.html


Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums [64] by Peter Hirtle, Emily Hudson, and Andrew Kenyon (2009) provides comprehensive coverage of all major copyright issues relevant to digitization in cultural heritage institutions. This work is also available in print from the Society of American Archivists [65]. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1495365

The Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project produces and disseminates research about copyright issues facing cultural heritage institutions building digital collections. http://www.law.berkeley.edu/librarycopyright.htm

The Association of Research Libraries [66], in particular its initiatives on Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age [67] and on Copyright and Intellectual Property [68], has published a variety of documents relevant to the digitization of special collections and archives, including a 2012 special issue of Research Library Issues that covers legal concerns related to digitizing rare and unique materials. http://publications.arl.org/rli279/1

In 2009, the Society of American Archivists [69] issued Orphan Works: Statement of Best Practices to guide decision-making in conducting research into the copyright status of unpublished collections. The document includes a variety of useful links and appendices. http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/OrphanWorks-June2009.pdf

In 2010, OCLC Research [70] organized a seminar and led the effort to develop a description of Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online [71], which provides useful guidance for institutions developing sustainable copyright risk assessment strategies for their digitization programs. http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/rights.html

In 2013, the Center for Media & Social Impact [72] issued the Report on Orphan Works Challenges: for libraries, archives, and other memory institutions, a study of the obstacles cultural memory institutions face in their efforts to address concerns about rights and intellectual property that concludes with a set of recommendations for the development and dissemination of best practices for overcoming these obstacles. http://cmsimpact.org/fair-use/related-materials/documents/report-orphan-works-challenges-libraries-archives-and-other-mem

Copyright and Related Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Unpublished Pre-1972 Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives describes what libraries and archives can legally do to preserve and make accessible holdings of unpublished sound recordings. http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/reports/pub144


The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) [73] supports digitization and related activities through the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program [74], the National Digital Newspaper Program [75], and the Preservation and Access Research and Development [76] grants. http://www.neh.gov/

The National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) [77] offers funding for digitization and related activities through the Access to Historical Records program [78] and the Digital Dissemination of Archival Collections program [79]. http://www.archives.gov/nhprc/


Lyrasis [80] offers a variety of classes relevant to digitization and digital content management, such as Introduction to Audio Visual Digitization, Introduction to Digital Project Management Planning, and Digitization for Small Institutions. The classes and events schedule contains up-to-date information about offerings: https://www.lyrasis.org/Pages/Events.aspx


The Internet Archive [81] (IA) is one of the world’s largest public digital libraries, with an extensive collection of human culture. Its mission includes offering free access to all digital knowledge for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to outstanding collections that exist in digital format. The Internet Archive also offers online access and discovery of digital content, including public domain eBooks [82] and a more selective collection of public domain and non-public domain texts [83].

IA offers non-destructive digitization services - which include image capture, digital processing, preservation, and future proofing of digital data. Items to be digitized can be sent to one of 33 regional digitization centers around the world, or portable equipment can be placed on-site within libraries and archives.

Overview of IA Workflow: http://archive.org/deatils/ProcessDocument

To reach one of the Internet Archive centers: https://archive.org/details/texts

To purchase digitization equipment: http://www.archive.org/details/tabletopscribesystem

Questions: Robert@archive.org

The Northeast Document Conservation Center [84] (NEDCC) is an independent conservation laboratory specializing in the conservation and preservation of paper-based collections. NEDCC provides professional conservation treatment for books, maps, photographs, documents, parchment, papyrus, manuscripts, architectural plans, and works of art on paper. NEDCC’s Imaging Services department provides digital imaging services and specializes in rare, historic, and oversize materials, as well as X-Ray Film scanning and reformatting for black and white and color negative films and color transparencies.

If you would like to suggest a resource for inclusion on this page, send your suggestion to DigiWiki@clir.org. The DLF is currently seeking professionals from DLF member institutions who would like to participate in a working group to develop and maintain the content of this page. Prospective volunteers for this group should also send expressions of interest to DigiWiki@clir.org.