HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

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HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

“Today digital technology is pervasive. It is mandatory that museums, libraries, and archives join with educational institutions in embracing it.”

  • Wayne Clough, Author, Best of Both Worlds

Museums and cultural institutions are leaving no stone unturned to digitize history. Archiving photos form an integral part of documenting history. Continuing with our previous post on how cultural institutions are leveraging photo archiving, in this post, we will detail why museums and cultural institutions should leverage photo archiving.

Easy Sharing and Distribution

Unlike physical copies, scanned photos can be easily shared across multiple locations with multiple users. Easier to track electronically, it is also cost effective for researchers and curators as it eliminates the need for physical reproduction and mailing.

Prepare for Disasters

Museums and cultural institutions are not free from the risk of losing valuable content. Natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, heavy rains, or hurricanes and tsunamis have destroyed museums and libraries over the centuries, resulting in the loss of valuable content. Digitization will curb the risk of loss of valuable photographs.

Save Cost and Clutter

Maintaining physical copies of photo prints requires physical storage space and involves cost. Digitizing photos can save institutions cost that is involved in keeping physical copies and make it easier to share and reproduce.

Source of Revenue

Owners of photos of rare events and occurrences can generate a revenue stream in terms of royalty or licensing fee. Different types of models can be adopted like selling prints through your own website, third-party portals, exhibiting in galleries etc.

Tip for Successful Photo Digitization – Prioritizing Which Items to Digitize

Depending on the priority and goals, every institution shortlists the photos that need to be digitized.  Some questions that organizations need to ask before selecting the images for digitization are:

  1. Are the records unique?
  2. Do the photos appeal visually?
  3. Who will be the prospective consumer of the digitized images?
  4. Does the demand justify the cost that will be incurred to digitize the photos?
  5. Will digitization add any value to the picture?
  6. How will the institution control access to the digitized images? Will, there be any restriction or can it be accessed openly?
  7. Does the institution have the legal right to scan?
  8. What is the long-term preservation strategy of the photos being digitized?
  9. What is the metadata that will be required?

Once institutions have selected items that need to be digitized, here are some critical considerations while scanning photos.

  1. Once you have a flatbed scanner ready, set the scanner, photoshop, and the printer to the same color space – CMYK or RGB.
  2. To capture many shades of gray (which is essential especially for black and white photos), choose the right DPI. Depending on the size of the picture, DPI should be around 3000 – 4000 pixels along the length of the image.
  3. Choose the format of preservation carefully. For Masterfile, the recommended format is TIFF.
  4. Save a JPEG copy for easy distribution among researchers.
  5. To avoid damage and file loss, keep the Master copy separate from the distributed copy.

Photo/ image archivists should prioritize digitizing susceptible photos like colored photos and cellulose nitrate or films. The context of each of these photos should also be documented, and each item needs to have metatags to make them easily accessible in time of need. To know about the top six mistakes to avoid while digitizing photos, read this blog.