My Digitization Tips

Jill Hurst-Wahl asked me in a comment here for any digitization tips I would like to share based on my experience. I met Jill Hurst-Wahl at a digitization seminar she gave at the RRLC a couple of years ago and she got me more excited about digitization. This was pre-blog so I didn’t write about it. I also attended a seminar at the RRLC in Nov 2006 given by Toya Dubin of Hudson Microimaging, Inc. which I wrote about here.

My digitization experience is as follows:

I have digitized contemporary and old books using Kirtas Technologies’ scanners and proprietary software.

I have digitized contemporary and old photos using an HP scanner and Photoshop.

Here’s my list of tips. Some things may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised what I’ve had to suggest to people to do and what not to do.

Maintain the integrity of the original. Do NOT use scotch tape or any tape on any tears. OMG I saw this happen over and over and I had a cow every time someone put tape on an old book. That’s what the conservation people are for.

The digitized image should be as close to the original as possible.

If photos / illustrations / artwork are in color, digitize them in color.

Tweak grayscale and colors until you get them as close to the original as possible.

Make sure text is not blurry or too light.

Do not presume to know what is / is not important to future readers / viewers.

Given the previous point, do not cut off anything especially in photos / illustrations / artwork / maps. If anything gets cut off, it will be exactly what a future reader / viewer will be looking for. You’d be surprised the details that are in the edges of maps / photos that are important.

Old books are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. You have to be really careful with making sure all of the pages are scanned. Page numbers are really messy in old books. If you think there are missing pages in a book, read from before where you think pages are missing to after where you think pages are missing to make sure the text flows to see if pages are really missing or not.

On the same note, some page numbers are duplicated. This does *not* always mean text is duplicated in the book. You have to read the pages to make sure the text is not duplicated.

Old photos are also not perfect. Most are not square at the corners. To follow what I suggested above, do not cut off any of the details even if it leaves white or black at some of the edges. Don’t worry about those edges.

270 - Blk 107 - H A Hyde - 1886 - 300dpi
From the collections of the Onondaga Historical Association.
Here’s a really good example of edges that I left in.
I could have rotated this image counterclockwise a bit,
but then the top and bottom would have had edges
that I would have created on purpose. I would
rather have the edges that are in the original photo showing.

Old photos (and some text in old books) have different levels of lighting. Do the best you can to make it look as good as possible and move on.

Old photos (and some text in old books) have clear places and blurry places. Again, do the best you can to make it look as good as possible and move on.

I’m going to put in a request to all of the digitizers out there. When digitizing old newspapers, please take into consideration the user would love to see the photos in much greater detail than what I’ve seen at The Post-Standard Newspaper archive. Okay, I love this archive, I subscribe to this archive, but I really wish they would have considered the photos, not just the text!

From The Post-Standard, ‘Enrico’s Is Gone,’ Thursday, September 29, 1994, Page A-11

If you have any digitization tips you can add, please let me know!

P.S. I wanted to add more photos, but Flickr is having a “massage” right now.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mary
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 16:19:53

    I should pass this on to an old neighbor in Delaware who works in the State of Delaware archives. She does this sort of stuff all day long – preserving newspaper clippings, etc. I saw her at work one day – it’s very interesting.

    Yeah, Flickr had a nice, long massage last night :o)


  2. mon@rch
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 20:48:40

    I could not think of anyone else who knows more about this than yourself! Thanks for sharing!


  3. Pam
    Jan 15, 2008 @ 21:43:47

    Mary – Ohhh, I would like to work for an archives some day!
    Mon@rch – thanks, and you’re welcome!


  4. Johnson
    Mar 27, 2008 @ 08:40:40

    Thanks for providing useful information about digital publishing. Publishing through online is the emerging trend most of the publishers are implementing this technology in order to maximize their circulations and revenue as well. I do frequent research on e publishing and this would be gear up rapidly in future. I found an e-publishing company recently, called and this company providing the services of pod cast, RSS, M-publishing besides web publishing.


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