Selection practice in most archives is aimed at meeting the current needs of user communities. Criteria developed by archives to select items for digitization are based on evidential and aesthetic values, as well as informational, intrinsic, and artifactual values.
Formal standards, such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Graphic Materials, and Rules for Archival Description (RAD), have been developed over time for the description of archival materials. While descriptive standards offer consistency, archival repositories employ descriptive systems suited to their holdings, not universal access, and description continues to be idiosyncratic.
The development of selection policies is a core component of digital projects, and many selection guidelines and criteria have been developed by institutions, national governments, and international organizations. Institutions need to validate their selection procedures for digitization concerning external criteria, especially with the increase of collaborations for digital projects.
Digitization can be performed either in-house or outsourced. In-house implies that a department of the institution captures the images—supplying hardware and software, trained personnel, and overhead. Outsourcing requires entering into a contract with a vendor who will receive the images, convert them, and return the originals with the required digital files. Both in-house and outsourced alternatives should be considered when embarking on a digitization project.
As archivists, we take our responsibilities seriously as stewards of the collections entrusted to our care, ensuring that our assets remain safe and accessible to users. The demand for increased online access to collections, coupled with limited fiscal and staff resources, makes balancing the two a challenge.
The best career guidance I’ve encountered derives from an unlikely source, a record I purchased at Extreme Noise in Minneapolis when I was 16:
You must learn to live with your own conscience, your own morality, your own decision, your own self. You alone can do it. There is no authority but yourself.
The conclusion to the fifth studio album by seminal British anarchist punk band Crass urges listeners to take up the challenge of personal responsibility. The exhaustion of vocalist Eve Libertine’s delivery emphasizes the message’s sincerity. I’ve often thought about this mantra as it pertains to the LIS field.
Staffing needs for digital projects depend on the project’s size and complexity. Training existing staff members to work on digitization projects is a critical component of change management within the institution because digital projects require new skills. The digital age is moving memory institutions into new paradigms of delivering both services and content, and this alteration brings with it a need for training in managing information in a hybrid environment.
I was once the director of an archival collection related to historical buildings around the world. From Babylon to Bauhaus, the collection held just about every amazing world monument you could think of and documented state-of-the-art historic preservation techniques. Here was my challenge: the archives was institutional with no public access, and I was a “lone arranger” in charge of all aspects of archival management at the organization. How could I share these treasures?