Imaging and Digitization

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The digitization and imaging of books is a relatively new method of preservation in the ever increasingly digital era. This process involves imaging or scanning books or archival material currently stored in libraries and museum collections in order to create a digital collection, which can be searched and easily accessed for research purposes. The process is also in use to maintain information that would otherwise be lost to the degradation of historic books (Hirtle 2002). Although controversies exist revolving around the intent and use of this digital material, digitization for preservation is becoming an increasingly useful tool in the preservation of cultural heritage. Through partnerships with large scale digitization initiatives (LSDI) such as Google Book Search, Microsoft and the Open Content Alliance, many research libraries either have already begun or are beginning to look into the digitization of books for preservation (Rieger 2008). This process is being undertaken to prevent further damage to many library collections, and to create a method of preservation that is impervious to natural degradation processes.

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Conservation in Support of Digitization

Digitization for Preservation vs. Digital Preservation


Although closely linked, the difference between the terms “Digitization for Preservation” and “Digital Preservation” is an important distinction when discussing the preservation of books and archival material. “Digitization for Preservation” refers to the act of digitizing a book or archival material and creating a digital copy or image of the material. The process involves specifications for capturing all of the original information contained within the book and creating a digital copy of it. “Digital Preservation” is the act of preserving and maintaining the digital information that is created from the initial digitization process. Regardless of its original source (book, artifact, digital data), “Digital Preservation” purely focuses on maintaining the digitized information captured from the original source (Conway 2010).

Implications


There are many implications of the digitization and imaging of books for preservation, both positive and negative, but some of the most prevalent implications are as follows.
The digital copies of books take up much less physical space than traditional preservation techniques. This opens up archives for the storage of more information. As archives and libraries receive more acquisitions, digital preservation techniques help the issue of having enough space to store these historical books and documents (Rieger 2008).
On the opposite end, the process of digitization can put the original book or archival material at risk of damage (Hirtle 2002). Although the process is being undertaken to preserve the information contained in the original material, the book itself may be compromised, especially if it is in poor condition.
There is also an issue of losing historical significance of the original book, such as binding, material, watermark, and composition of ink (Hirtle 2002). Although digitization can preserve the information contained within a historical book, an image or scan of a book cannot preserve these specifics in a tangible way. Without these, much valuable information about the book would be lost to future researchers.
On other implication would be the loss of physical access to the original work. The digitization process makes gaining access to the material easy, but the researcher looses direct contact with the material. Many researchers have expressed concern with this implication as they feel it distances them from the original book, and any information they may gain from this physical contact (Rieger 2008).

Controversies


The concept of digitizing books and archival data is still a controversial topic as many people within the community view the process as an easy way to copy information for broader sharing. Despite this, the Association for Research Libraries has officially accepted digitization as a method of preserving material (Conway 2010). In the increasing digital world, digitization and imaging have begun to emerge as time and cost effective alternatives to the traditional preservation of books and other archival material (Conway 2010).
Funding for digital preservation is another issue that has yet to be solved. Many preservation departments within libraries receive grant money for traditional preservation techniques of books. Digitization of these materials has raised questions about how institutions and libraries will allocate funds and prioritize for the preservation of their collections (Rieger 2008).

Bibliography


Conway, P. 2010. “Preservation in the Age of Google:Digitization, Digital Preservation, and Dilemmas”. The Library Quarterly, Vol. 80, No. 1, pp. 61-79. DOI: 10.1086/648463

Frellsen, Ann, Katherine Kelly, Kim Norman, and Jennifer Hain Teper. Scrapbooks. AIC Conservation Wiki.

This chapter of the Book Conservation Wiki includes a section on the process of digitizing scrapbooks and an annotated bibliography with additional resources on digital imaging.


Hirtle, P. B. 2002. “The Impact of Digitization on Special Collections in Libraries”. Libraries & Culture, Vol. 37, No. 1, The Infinite Library, pp. 42-52. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/14206

Miller, Laura O’Brien and Melissa Tedone (moderators). 2011. "Archives Conservation Discussion Group 2011: Digitization and Its Effect on Conservation Treatment Decisions: How Has Wide-Spread Digitizing of Collections Changed Our Approach to Treatment?" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 30.

This discussion group included the following presentations:
  • Knowlton, Andrea. "Grappling with Treatment Decisions for Large-Scale Digitization of Archival Materials".
  • Baker, Amy E. "Is Stabilization Conservation? Treatment of Oversize Maps for Digitization".
  • Jewell, Stephanie. "Digitization at the Walters Art Museum: Islamic and Western Materials".
  • Lubick, Amy. "Digitization at the National Archives: The Widows’ Certificates Pension File Project as a Treatment Model
  • Hanscom, Bill. "Harvard’s Chinese Rare Book Digitization Project".

Reidell, Sarah and Christine McCarthy (moderators). 2007. "Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group 2007: Digitization and the Role of the Conservator" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 26.

This Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group (LCCDG) session attempted to identify key issues of concern to library conservators surrounding digital activity and digitization through three brainstorming groups. The moderators reported that, "the top five keyword phrases for the discussion session as a whole were “standards and definitions,” “expectations,” “procedures, how-to, and recommendations,” “cross-disciplinary involvement and communication,” and “workflow.”

Reidell, Sarah and Laura McCann (moderators). 2008. "Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group 2008: Digitization Project Case Studies" (PDF). Book and Paper Group Annual 27.

A summary of Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group (LCCDG) session that featured a panel of presenters who described conservation activities supporting in a wide range of digitization activities from small projects to mass digitization efforts.
This discussion group included the following presenters:
  • Priscilla Anderson, Harvard Business School, Baker Library Historical Collections
  • Heather Hendry, Harvard University Library, Weissman Preservation Center (WPC),
  • Mary Oey, Morgan Library and Museum
  • Holly Robertson, University of Virginia Library
  • Shannon Zachary, University Library at the University of Michigan


Rieger, O.Y. 2008. “Preservation in the Age of Large-Scale Digitization”. Council of Library and Information Resources, Washington D.C.

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