Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative

Quoting from the The Signal Digital Preservation, the blog of the Library of Congress:
Saving the nation’s cultural heritage is an increasingly important matter for government agencies that hold large amounts of material documenting the national record. While saving traditional printed archival materials continues to be important, the exponential growth of digitized material, and collections, has created a new set of challenges related to producing and preserving materials in digital format over the long term.
Having spent a considerable time this past year involved in scanning projects, I fully understand the challenge of maintaining the huge files of scanned documents that accumulate quickly as you digitize entire collections. The Library of Congress is just one of eighteen Federal Agencies that form the Still Image Working Group.  There is also an Audio-Visual Working Group consisting of some of the same agencies. The purpose of the Still Image Working Group initiative is expressed as follows:
This group is involved in a cooperative effort to develop common digitization guidelines for historical and cultural materials that can be reproduced as still images, such as textual content, maps, photographic prints and negatives. The overall goal is to enhance the exchange of research results and development, encourage collaborative digitization practices and projects among federal agencies, and provide the public with a product of uniform quality. It will also serve to establish a common set of benchmarks for digitization service providers and manufacturers.  In addition to digital imaging and encoding, guidelines will be developed for the metadata that is embedded in digital image files.
For example, the Smithsonian Institution presently has the ability to search over 7.4 million records with 568,100 images, video and sound files, electronic journals and other resources from the Smithsonian's museums, archives & libraries.

As genealogists we sometimes have a narrow view of the importance of preserving all types of cultural artifacts since we focus primarily on those documents that provide direct genealogical information. But without the accompanying cultural, social and political background, our work produces little more than a list of names and dates. In all of our efforts we need to be aware of the greater picture, the context in which the people lived and died. 

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