Digitizing Historical Pictorial Collections for the Internet

Mark E. Shelton (University of Nebraska‐Lincoln)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Shelton, M.E. (2000), "Digitizing Historical Pictorial Collections for the Internet", Collection Building, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 38-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/cb.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Stephen Ostrow brings 12 years of experience as chief of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress to this report from the Council on Library and Information Resources. From the title the reader may anticipate that this report focuses on the digitization process, but not so. The report focuses primarily on the planning process in determining why such a project might be carried out and the criteria for selecting items and collections for digitization. Secondarily, it focuses on the implications such a project has on the researcher, on preservation, and on the original collection.

The report begins with a look at the nature of historical picture collections and the different kinds of images found and media used. It is shown how many of these collections are organized and the levels of service and access provided, and the impact these levels have on preservation. From here the author begins to compare the problems associated with going to the reading room to view pictures, with the concerns over quality and authenticity of digital images. With this the author addresses the issue of supporting infrastructures needed to deliver access to the digital collections, and how different images require different levels of scanning resolution. This is the most technical section of the report, and although these topics on resolution can be found in the literature on digitization projects, it is the association with how historical pictures might be viewed that makes the discussion significant.

The third section of the report looks at why historical pictures should be digitized. The author shows how such collections can serve audiences in the primary and secondary education market. It is shown how the digital image becomes both a reference and research surrogate to the whole collection, and how, under special circumstances, it can be a preservation surrogate for original pictures.

The author concludes the report by addressing copyright and providing associated records with the image. Included also is a list of important planning questions as well as a copy of the Library of Congress’ National Digital Library Program project planning checklist. It is the focus on planning that makes this an excellent resource for the media specialist or archivist. Without wasting time on topics already covered extensively in the literature, like image databases or scanning hardware and software, this report does what it is meant to do and does it well.

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