Photo Digitization

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HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

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.

How Cultural Institutions are Leveraging Photo Archiving

How Cultural Institutions are Leveraging Photo Archiving

Museums and cultural institutions play a valuable role in preserving the rich cultural heritage of our planet.  By recording the history of different era and communities, such institutions help us understand our history, deepening our knowledge and respect for various cultures and traditions.

However, with time, the ways of accessing the history is changing. G. Wayne Clough, the author of Best of Both Worlds, says, “Today digital technology is pervasive. It is mandatory that museums, libraries, and archives join with educational institutions in embracing it.”

To keep with this trend, photo archiving has been a prime focus of many cultural institutions. Some forerunners in this space are:

Pharos

Pharos, the “International Consortium of Photo Archives” – a joint effort of 14 institutions like the Getty and the Frick, the National Gallery of Art, the Yale Center for British Art, Rome’s Bibliotheca Hertziana, and the Courtauld Institute among others will host 25 million images – 17 million artworks and 8 million supplemental material. The Consortium aims to have 7 million images online by 2020.

Primarily aimed at scholars, Pharos uploads a work’s provenance, attribution, exhibition, conservation, and bibliographic histories. The Consortium currently has more than 100,000 images and 60,000 artworks of early Christian art from the National Gallery, classical and Byzantine art and mosaics from the Frick, statuary from the Bibliotheca Hertziana, and photographs of Roman pottery among other collectibles.

Smithsonian Design Museum

Cooper Hewitt, popularly known as the Smithsonian Design Museum has embarked on an ambitious digitization project where they have digitized more than 92 percent of the 3000-year-old museum collection.

Durham Museum

The photo archive of the Durham Museum in Nebraska documents the history of Omaha in more than 1 million images from the 1860s. Dedicated to the long-term storage of photographs to preserve a part of the past, the photos document moments like Presidents on parade, streetcars, storefronts, and images from the early days of the city.

Oslo City Museum

The Oslo City Museum, with over 2 million objects, has started archiving photos to preserve the lifestyle, history, and development of the city in time. More than 100,000 photos have already been digitized in the museum’s system.

Norwegian Labour Movement Archives and Library

Four special groups are working together to organize the collection of Norwegian Labor Movement Archives and Library, which comprises of 1,500,000 items about Oslo History in general aspect and narrative about labor history.

Google

Google has a similar project – Google Art Project – which lets users’ virtually tour 17 of the world’s major institutions like Ufizzi, New York Met, and Tate among others.

Benefits of photo archiving

While the benefits of archiving history are many, here is a list of the four prominent benefits:

  1. Reachability: With photo archiving, learning about history and culture is no more only restricted to museum booklets or guided tours. With web-based virtual walk-through and videos, museums and cultural institutions can reach out to a broader audience base.
  2. Multiple revenue sources: Photo archiving has opened new revenue sources for cultural institutions. Many museums have websites selling online tickets, replicas of artifacts, historical DVDs, and 3D immersive trips to let the audience experience history from the comfort of home.
  3. Long-term preservation of cultural heritage: Physical copies of photos and artifacts are subject to wear-and-tear and natural calamities. Digitization has made preservation of history easier and more accessible.
  4. Ease of research: Photo archiving has made researching on an era or finding the right image for a project easier. For example, Pharos, the Consortium of Photo Archives has made millions of photos accessible to the artists and researchers in a click, saving time and energy.

With digitization, consumers have easy access to media and information through connected devices, making sharing more accessible and faster. Hence, more cultural institutions are trying to expand their horizon to reach out to new audiences and digitize their collection for long-term preservation.