Digitising in museums, archives and libraries

The “Digital Spring” event series by CDS Gromke.

There are many good reasons for capturing art and other cultural items and distribute them digitally: Information and awareness, protecting the original, development and security, science and research exchanges, unlimited and constant access for everyone…

But how do you embark on a digitisation project? What do you need to consider in planning and implementing such a project? What technical, structural or legal aspects are important? In Leipzig on April 26 experts from museums and archives services answered these and other questions.


Before original paintings, archival records or books are turned into bits, there should be clarity surrounding the purpose of the digitisation project: Is it for internal or external use? Is an overall capture sufficient or should the components be developed and processed in detail? The initial information will indicate the basic “DFG Digitisation” rules or the publication by Nestor for long-term archiving. Depending on a project‘s objective, scope and complexity, it is recommended to seek the advice of a consultant with respect to the technical-, financial-, time-, as well as organisational- and staffing requirements that the digitisation project is likely to demand.

Many institutions place a lot of emphasis on the compatibility of the planned digitisation with existing systems, such as museum databanks. Digital Asset Management Systems (DAM) assist in efficiently capturing a large amount of image- and media files (digital assets) and are useful for a range of purposes. An effective link between the two systems helps staff opening, finding and using the digital files. Basic information on the technical know-how for creating digital objects was presented during a live scanning of a new, large work of Leipzig painter Norbert Wagenbrett.

Norbert Wagenbrett stellt sein jüngstes Werk zur Cruse-Live-Demonstration zur Verfügung.
(Painter Norbert Wagenbrett lends his latest work to the Cruse Live Demonstration.)

One of the main reasons for digitisation is to secure information, in particular when the material is inevitably going to be threatened by decay. Such a risk exists for example with photographs on a nitrate base. This was the case for the Deutsche Fotothek (Dresden) and they were faced with the task of digitising more than 110,000 negatives in high-resolution, parts of which were at risk. This project was implemented as part of “KUR – Programm zur Konservierung und Restaurierung von mobilem Kulturgut“ (Programme for the conservation and restoration of mobile cultural assets).

Developing digitised collections can be a useful complement when it comes to crowdsourcing and swarm intelligence. Examples illustrating just this were presented by the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum (City Museum) Leipzig, whose online database has seen a significant growth in traffic from around the world. Following some thorough examination and advice from experts as well as amateurs, not only were they able to fill knowledge gaps but also to make certain corrections.

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The aim of the “Digital Spring” event series is to convey new research, solutions and practical knowledge and to promote exchange between those involved in culture and services. At the request of many participants, long-term archiving, image- and media file work-flow, as well as costs and financing of digitisation projects will be the focus of coming events.

Souce: KulturBetrieb. Magazin für innovative und wirtschaftliche Lösungen, volume 2 2013 (May)


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