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Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Eight -- Technological Challenges: Scanners

If you are at all serious about digitizing a significant quantity of records, you need to have access to a scanner. In modern commerce, there are still vestiges of paper records but nearly all of my interaction with the outside commercial world is now on the internet in digital formats. For example, I have been involved in purchasing and selling real estate. Depending on the state in the United States, I can do the entire transaction online except for the physical property examination but in some states, the process is still very paper-oriented.

How does this translate to genealogy? Obviously, many of the records we now search are online in digital format. Some of those records are even indexed. As more records are digitized we will have less and less need to refer to paper records. Do not misunderstand my comment. It will be a really cold day in Phoenix, Arizona before all the paper records are digitized, but for some countries and during some time periods, the basic records are generally available online.

Unfortunately, that huge number of online digitized records does not help those of us with our own pile of paper. But, we should be aware that if our personal records are photocopies of records that are now online, it will not be our responsibility to assure that these records are digitally preserved. Those records that are truly personal such as journals, photographs, certificates, letters, and other similar documents are our responsibility to digitize and preserve.

Even within the past week or two, I have had another question come up about how and what to digitize. In this case, the person wanted to get rid of the clutter and open up space in their house. As long as we and others view the products of genealogical research as clutter or trash, we will continue to lose a huge amount of valuable genealogical information every year.

The main objective of this series is to motivate and assist those with paper collections of documents and records to share those with the greater genealogical community through digitization. Right now a huge number of documents and photographs are being uploaded to the Memories section but these contributions are only a small part of the paper out there in the world.

Scanners, photocopiers, and digital cameras have light-sensitive electronic sensors or photosensitive elements although the actual process is different for each class of machines. All three convert light rays into electronic signals that can then be printed or stored. Scanners and photocopiers shine a bright light on the documents being scanned and then use a photosensor to copy a reflected image of the document. Digital camera sensors create the image directly from light entering the lens of the camera. Many scanners available today are multifunctional and work as scanners, photocopiers or printers, and FAX machines although the fax function is rapidly disappearing with the ability to send digital images by email.

Here is a generalized diagram of how the most common flatbed scanner works.

By Scanner_a_plat_fonctionnement.png: User:Jean-noderivative work: Pluke (talk) - Scanner_a_plat_fonctionnement.png, FAL,
All other types of scanners follow the same general pattern. Rather than rewrite many of my previous blog posts, here is a list of the ones most pertinent to this issue.
Flatbed scanners are inexpensive. An Epson Perfection V39 Color Photo & Document Scanner with scan-to-cloud & 4800 optical resolution is presently about $70 on (you can designate The Family History Guide as you selected charity) and there are others that range up to $300 that have larger scanning surfaces or can also scan film slides. Scanners that automatically scan multiple pages with a sheet feeder and/or scan photos automatically can run into the thousands of dollars.

Some Family History Centers and libraries, such as the Brigham Young University Family History Library have scanners available for free public use.

If you read some of the posts linked above you will understand that using a very high level of resolution, such as the Epson's 4800 optical resolution, does little to enhance the final photo. The Library of Congress, Preservation Directorate recommends 300 or 400 dpi.

The scanner will either be connected to a computer or have its own USB connection and all your images can be stored on a flash drive or hard drive.

Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:
Part Six:
Part Seven:

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