Digitisation is the creation of digital objects from physical, analogue originals by means of a scanner, camera, or similar electronic device. It involves a whole lot of processes such as selection, assessment needs, prioritization, preparation of originals for digitisation, metadata collection and creation, digitisation and creation of data collection, and submission of digital resources to delivery systems and repositories. Sounds simple and easy to grasp at a glance, but digitisation takes a whole lot of complex technical work and understanding of every step which should be meticulously executed to achieve its main goal which is to access the data, preserve the data, or both. The entire digitisation process we engaged in as students of the course Digital Assets Management (DAM), led me to a higher level of appreciation of this quite technical work. I particularly gained a richer perspective of this complex process from start to finish which is indeed tedious but fulfilling.
I had my first hands-on experience with digitisation back home, in the office where I am currently connected with, two years ago. Honestly, our digitisation simply starts from identifying the most important documents for preservation, followed by scanning the documents, then finally storing them in the cloud for security and long-term preservation. That is about it, nothing fancy or challenging. But then I realised, the documents could suddenly become inaccessible, if not useless, because of the fast-paced technology which has become an important concern due to the bulk of documents which pilled-up each year. Furthermore, we do not have any sustainable plan of storing these highly-relevant documents in digital repositories. This is mainly the reason why I find taking this program on Digital Information Management beneficial.
Extremely excited and anxious at the same time, I attended our DAM classes and for every time we discuss the digitisation process, I picture our current office situation and would often find myself realising how I can put these learnings into actual practise. Then, the day of hands-on activity on the digitisation as our first assignment came and it was totally exhilarating. Selecting the documents to be digitised was already challenging as I have very limited resources here, so this led me to vintage shops where I found some relevant documents I believe are worth digitising. This process is accompanied along the way by management, including intellectual property rights management and quality control, and evaluation at the end. These steps are essential to ensure that the digital object remains accessible in the long-term. Then, we were introduced to the technical work using the equipment for scanning and extracting metadata. At this stage, I realized that having the most appropriate equipment is necessary to be able to create an authentic master copy or one close to the original document, meaning it should not be altered or enhanced. In this way, the original document is protected from excessive handling and allows access to content any time and, through its digital copy, is also made available anywhere.
As for the metadata creation, there were many realisations aside from the fact that accuracy is essential, it is also important to follow standards. As mentioned in one of our readings on metadata, “Theoretically, it is impossible to develop metadata from scratch, xxx … However, it is generally preferable to use or adapt existing standards. Using an existing standard can offer cost saving –its usage guidelines have been developed thus saving time and effort, access to help and advice –which means there will be access to help and advice about how best to use the standard, usability – users are likely to be familiar with a standard and its terminology, thus they can more quickly and easily use your collection, resource discovery – using a standard means the collection can more easily be opened to be searched and shared with others, and sustainability – use of common standards will make it easier to pass your collection on to someone else to look after if you ever need to”. (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/metadata)
In the case of our assignment, we made use of Dublin Core Metadata Initiative as standards for metadata creation as it provides a reference guide online. For the images, Jeffrey’s Image Metadata Viewer extracted the technical metadata online effortlessly. For the documents with text, the metadata was extracted using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), as it can electronically convert images of typed or printed text from scanned documents. However, it was noticeable that the typewritten text elicited broader metadata than handwritten ones. It was difficult for the OCR to recognize handwritten text. Adherence to internationally recognized standards facilitates long-term access to digitized content either for access or preservation.
Although the activities for this digitisation assignment were laid down to us, I realized that a digitisation strategic plan with risk assessment is vital, as it will provide a clearer purpose of the process for long-term preservation as well as obsolescence issues of equipment or human resource in mind.
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