Digitisation, invest in the past for the future

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Digitise your heritage to produce exact digital copies of sites, documents, objects, movies. Several processes exist and differ according to the heritage type and the result you want to achieve. 

Digitisation offers

  • Protection, creating a digital copy of your heritage ensures its longevity beyond its physical aspects.

  • Conservation of digitised heritage becomes a precise process as you gain valuable insights on the heritage properties and weaknesses without intervention, allowing you to discover possible issues in advance and take specific steps for its preservation. 

  • Promotion goes hand in hand with digitisation, digitised objects, collections and sites offer broader access to heritage such as virtual tours.

  • Research opportunities, related to conservation, you could be surprised to discover new techniques or even an extension of an archaeological site before you start digging. 

How to do it: 

1. Plan 

Digitisation is an important and sometimes costly process, so planning is essential to its success:

  • Identify and catalogue the assets you plan to digitise. 
  • Create a budget, including the costs of digitisation, transportation of resources and a fundraising plan, if you do not already have the necessary funds. 
  • Research the standards on digitisation and read on best practices on similar projects. Knowledge on the subject will help you decide on the standards and facilitate your communication with the organisation in charge of digitising.  
  • Set deadlines and specifications of quality control.
  • Risk assessment, for your heritage and your organisation in the long-term.
  • Intellectual property rights. 

2. Pre-digitisation assessment

After planning and agreeing with professionals to undertake the project there are a few steps you need to take in-house: 

  • Using your catalogue, select the assets that will be digitised. 
  • Do an in-depth assessment of their condition, state of preservation and cleaning. 
  • Make any treatment necessary and possible. 
  • If there are several objects to be digitised, create an order and prioritise those at risk. 
  • Collect metadata, descriptive and structural. 
  • Archival preparation. 

3. Digitisation

  • Get the objects digitised
  • Quality control
  • Create masters from which access copies will be available.

4. Post-digitisation

  • Guidelines on long-term conservation
  • Create a digital repository, house the masters, digital resources to ensure protection and authenticity. 
  • Create digital copies of online resources and metadata
  • Evaluate the project

Many challenges block most heritage organisations from digitising their collections mainly financial, lack of expertise, prioritisation of physical conservation over digital. If you face these challenges you can address your organisation to institutions that do digitisation, foundations that offer educational programs on training professionals and raise the issue with your local community to find out if they are willing to provide support or interested to build new skills. 

We are in the digital era, and so should our heritage. 

I want to learn more: 

Cultural Heritage Digitisation 

European Commission report on Cultural Heritage: Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation 

Safeguarding the Memory of the World – UNESCO 2015 Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, Access to, Documentary Heritage Including in the Digital Form 

Archiving 2020, ICCROM

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