Once the decision has been made to create a digital image collection,
its scope and form need to be tailored to the particular institution:
the more time spent in review and analysis before embarking on the
first scan, the more successful a project is likely to be. Remember
that projects may be carried out in partnership or collaboration
with other institutions or initiatives, and that this may allow sharing
of both costs and expertise.
The first step is to select the collection, collections, or part
of a collection to be digitized. Consider the level of interest in
the selection and its relevance to the scanning institution's mission.
Make sure that the scale of the proposed project is practical, considering
the broader technical environment: the operating systems, networks,
and bandwidth in place, and overall budgets and priorities. It is
advisable to think through an overall strategy but to begin with
smaller projects and work up gradually to a more ambitious program.
Conservation and Access Status
Collections that are already in good condition and have consistent
metadata control make for far less arduous imaging projects. Ensure
that the items are not too physically fragile to withstand the imaging
process without damage, and decide which scanning method is most
appropriate (see Selecting Scanners). Appraise the collection's
organization: well-organized collections facilitate a robust linking
of physical object and digital surrogate through such strategies
as consistent file-naming protocols, while chaotic collections do
not. Maintaining such relationships between analog and digital assets
is crucial for managing hybrid collections. Completing conservation
and cataloguing of any selected collection before beginning the scanning
process is highly recommended.
Discover whether any legal clearances are required to reproduce
the originals or to modify and display the reproductions. Be aware
that many license agreements are of limited duration, which may be
a problem if the intention is that a digital image collection be
available indefinitely. Projects are much more straightforward if
clearance requirements are minimal, as for instance when the items
to be digitized are in the public domain or the scanning institution
owns reproduction rights.
Project Team and Workflow
Identify the team that will be required to complete the project.
Digitizing projects generally require the expertise of many different
departments and/or individuals, whose availability should be considered
when plotting out the project timeline and workflow. Decide which,
if any, of the many tasks involvedconservation, photography, scanning,
cataloguing, metadata capture, storageare to be outsourced. It will
be necessary to review workflow constantly in order to recognize
and resolve weaknesses and bottlenecks.
It will be necessary to decide which imaging (file format, resolution,
naming protocols, and so on) and metadata standards to employ, taking
into account the nature of the original material, the staff time
available for indexing and cataloguing, and the likely users of the
collection. (See Image Capture and Selecting a Metadata Schema.)
Certain standards may already be in place within an institution,
and participating in certain partnerships or collaborations may prompt
the selection of standards already in use within the larger group.
Digital Asset Management
The standards in use within the larger group may also influence
the selection of hardware, software, and, perhaps most critically,
an image or digital asset management (DAM) system. It is important
to remember that DAM software cannot develop asset management strategies
(though it can be used to implement or enforce them) and that whatever
management system is used, its usefulness will depend on the quality
of metadata it contains.
DAM systems can track digital image creation and modification, record
the location of master and derivative files, allow search and retrieval
of files, monitor migration schedules, control access, and so forth.
Turnkey or customizable off-the-shelf DAM systems are available at
a broad range of prices and levels of complexity, and it is also
possible to utilize desktop database software or more powerful client/server
systems to create in-house customized solutions, or to employ some
combination of commercial and in-house systems. XML-based solutions
such as native-XML or XML-enabled databases are likely to
become more popular in the future.
The most appropriate image management solution will be dictated
by the available budget, the scale of the project and its projected
growth, the available technical infrastructure and support, the projected
demand, and similar issues. Most institutions will want to incorporate
their DAM system into a general, institution-wide automation or digital
library plan. This will require some level of integration with existing
or planned collection and library management systems, online public
access catalogues (OPAC), publishing systems, and perhaps
business or administrative systems. The use of consistent data structure
and content standards ensures flexibility by facilitating the exchange
and migration of data and thus promoting interoperability and resource
sharing within (and between) institutions.
All aspects of a digital imaging project will need to take into
consideration the needs of each class of potential user, but these
will most particularly guide decisions about presentation and delivery.
Understanding user needs requires probing the assumptions of differing
groups, which may be achieved through user studies. These may reveal
particular requirements or limitations, such as the desired level
of image quality, necessary information-searching facilities, or
a predefined network infrastructure. For example, medium-resolution
images of a particular collection may be sufficient for classroom
use by undergraduate students, but they may contain too little information
for a conservator exploring the technical construction of a work.
Security protocols can be used to give different image and metadata
access to the various users of a collection, if this is deemed necessary
(see Security Policies and Procedures). It will be necessary
to select which data elements should display to the various user
groups, which should be searchable, and what kinds of searches should
Other requirements or preferences may also be revealed through user
studies. Will users want to integrate image display with other institutional
information? For example, would users want to display a record from
a curatorial research database or library management system alongside
the image? Will users wish to be able to integrate search results
into word processing or other documents, and, therefore, should copying
or downloading of the image and record be facilitated (which might
have legal implications)? Do users require thumbnail images for browsing,
and, if so, what type of identification should accompany each image?
Would image processing or image manipulation functions (such as changing
colors, zooming, or annotation) be helpful to users? It may
not be desirable or even possible to fulfill all such desires, but
it is useful to be aware of them. (See Delivery.)
It will be absolutely necessary to develop a strategy for ensuring
long-term access to, and preservation of, assets. This will require
choosing that combination of tacticssuch as documentation, redundant
storage, refreshing, migration, emulation, and
resource sharingthat best suits the institution and its resource
limitations, such as storage capacity. (See Long-Term Management