Friday, June 23, 2006

Proposal for a regional digitization project, part 4

[For the first parts of this series, read part 1, part 2 and part 3.]

Part 3 of this series was quite long and my goal is to not be so wordy today.

Assuming that funding is received and that the actual digitization can continue, how will these materials be digitized?

Not only are we talking about a tremendous amount of content, but we are also talking about content that is quite varied in format -- from old handwritten documents to oversized maps to audio files. I would not expect all of the materials to be digitized in-house (if any). Instead, I would expect that this group of collaborators would look for several service bureaus that could handle the work.

Several? Yes, for a number of reasons.
  1. Generally, each service bureau is well-versed at digitizing certain types of materials. For example, I would look for a company qualified to digitize audio to actually do the audio. I wouldn't look for the microfilm digitization service bureau to also do the audio. (Yes, I know that is obvious or should be.)
  2. There may be a benefit in using two or more services bureaus who do similar work, so that the project is not reliant on one company. Putting "all of one's eggs in one basket" can be a problem. If the group feels that it wants to use only one service bureau for certain types of materials, then it should be sure to discuss the pros and cons, and be sure of its decision.
  3. Some materials made not be able to leave their institutions, so I would look for a service bureau that could come on-site to do those materials. (And not every service bureau offers that service.)
Actually, depending on the number of items, I might ask a service bureau to set up shop temporarily in the Harrisburg area (if an appropriate one does not already exist there). That would mean that the items would not be out of their collections for extended periods of time, would not have to travel far, and that it would be easy to check-up on the operation.

Personally, I would want to see the service bureau operations and meet the staff, if at all possible, before the project began. I might even want to talk to the staff about how the materials are to be handled, etc. I would want to know that they are comfortable with and competent in working with historic, fragile and priceless materials.

As for the contracts, I would place clauses in the documents that outline the service bureaus' responsibilities including the care of the items, security, storage (e.g., climate control), and specifics around the actual digitization quality (ppi, file formats, etc.). I would expect the service bureaus to do their own quality control on every item and also would have the collaborators do quality control. Any problems should be fixed by the service bureaus at no additional cost.

As for the standards to be used, I would look to the collaborators to review and agree on the standards and guidelines that they will use for the actual digitization. Documents that they might review as part of this process include:

Yes...there are other documents that could use, including information produced by Cornell. However, I would encourage the group not to get bogged down in reviewing too many document and delaying decisions.

I haven't spoken about specific equipment. The equipment used is driven by the materials to be digitized. During the grant writing stage (when they will need to come up with cost quotes), the group will need to have a very good idea of what the materials are, their formats, and the quantity. However, I would expect that information to be solidified during the selection process. If the group can do the complete selection process before it writes the grant, then that would be great (but not always possible) and would ensure a must more accurate cost quote.

The actual digitization of the materials is the easiest part of the project and an area where the costs are not likely to get out of hand. Other areas can be "black holes" and much more creative. We tend to talk about the actual digitization costs being 10% - 30% of the total project costs. In part 5, we'll talk about another area of this project and an area where cost can be an issue.

This occurred to me last night -- One additional area I would consider including in this project would be information on the cultures that influenced Harrisburg (e.g., Native American and Pennsylvania Dutch). One very obvious way this influence is seen is in the names of the streets, although I suspect that some of the pronunciations have taken on a very South Central PA twist (e.g., Muench is pronounced "Minnick")!

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1 comment:

Don said...

Yes, I have heard "Muench Street" pronounced as "Minnick Street" in Harrisburg. However, the surname "Muench" in my part of the country - New York State - and also in most other parts of the country - is pronounced as "minch". The short "i" approximates the umlauted "u" in German