Digitization for Everybody to offer instruction on converting analog to digital

New tools will teach the fundamentals of converting analog collections according to international digitization standards

Digitization is the go-to technology for converting photographs, sound recordings, and videotapes to digital files for preservation and wider use. But the technical knowledge needed to create high quality digital copies that conform to international standards is not well understood. The result is a growing risk that digitized cultural resources will not be as usable for new creative or scholarly purposes as they could be. 

“We cannot predict the long-term technological future with any certainty, but we know that libraries, archives, and museums are living on borrowed time when it comes to the rescue and digital reformatting of analog photographic and audio-visual resources,” says Paul Conway, an associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Information. 

Conway is the Principal Investigator of a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create an educational program that will address the barriers that cultural heritage professionals currently face in digitizing their collections for online access and long-term preservation. 

“Digitization for Everybody (Dig4E)” will produce a set of three modular, online, and open-source learning resources to support standards-based digitization of analog-based cultural heritage resources. The three types of media that the self-directed modules will cover are photographic materials, analog audiotape, and analog videotape. The focus of the learning resources is on the international technical standards that underlie best practice guidelines developed by the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. 

“Users of digitized cultural heritage resources, especially users with expertise in their subject area, are increasingly demanding access to standards-conforming archival surrogates,” says Conway. “At present, however, there is a gap between the technical complexity and maturity of international standards for digitization and the knowledge required to practice professionally in the cultural heritage sector.” Digitization for Everybody aims to fill that gap for new and mid-level information professionals. 

The toolkit will also serve teachers and independent learners who want to acquire conceptual and technical literacy regarding the standards for digital still images, audio and video conversion, and the associated technical metadata elements. The learning modules will support self-study and self-assessment and could be used in classrooms, workshops, and digitization lab settings. 

Learning modules will be written in a straightforward way with accompanying audiovisual aids. All specialized jargon and technical terms will be defined in one or more glossaries. Dig4E learning resources will be freely available online through Creative Commons licenses and in print-on-demand and ePub formats at a modest cost. 

The University of Michigan will preserve all digital content and associated code in its well-supported data repository service. 

The two-year project will run from October 2018 to August 2020.

Posted October 18, 2018