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Conservation for Digitisation


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Presented at our Digitisation Doctor workshop on 15 April 2013.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Conservation for Digitisation

  1. 1. Conservation for DigitisationGillian BoalHead of Conservationand Collections CareMatthew BrackDigitisation Project ManagerDigitisation Doctor workshop, 15 April 2013
  2. 2. The nature of digitisationConservation for Digitisation
  3. 3. Where physical and digital collections meetConservation for DigitisationWhen you do digi you tend to come across a coupletypes of people:1. Those with an understanding of digital collections andtheir corresponding management systems.2. Those who understand physical objects andcollections management.It’s very important that you strive for an appreciation ofboth digital and physical collections and understandhow they interact in order to execute a good digi project.
  4. 4. The nature of digitisationConservation for Digitisation
  5. 5. Digitisation = variablesConservation for Digitisation• With conservation, like every other part of thedigi workflow, there is no one way of doingthings.• Every project will be different and smallprojects don’t equate to simple projects.• There are no simple projects and project sizeis simply an indication of project duration andnever ease of execution.
  7. 7. ‘Bench’ vs. ‘Digi’ conservationConservation for DigitisationTraditionally, conservation has had different disciplines:paper, paintings, objects and so on. Digi conservation maybe a new one, with its many differing approaches.As part of a project workflow, even a basic understanding ofproject management will be your best friend. Additionally:1. Volume of materials goes up.2. Amount of time to spend on them goes down.3. Number of stakeholders increases, many of whom won’tknow about conservation.
  9. 9. Wider responsibility for collections care• Responsibility will need to be extended to thosewithout conservation training• Digital Preparators and Imaging Technicians willspend more time with objects than anyone else• You don’t need a skilled conservation resource• Establish sensible guidelines• Your main concern is handlingWellcome Digital Library Programme
  10. 10. Risk assessmentConservation for Digitisation• Some of the traditional conservation approaches to assessing risk forobjects can be counterproductive for digitisation – following them strictlywill stall your project.• A good starting point is a universal risk assessment framework, simplequestions that quickly give you a grasp of risk to your objects within a digiproject.• Our bottom line: no loss of information from the object.Example questions (from Digital Preservation Coalition):Identify a risk ... What is it’s likelihood?What is it’s impact? Risk Score: L x IHow frequently does the risk occur? How often do we need to check?Who owns the risk? How will we respond to the risk?How does our response change likelihood and impact?
  11. 11. Conservation Digital PreparationConservation for Digitisation
  12. 12. Digi preparation at Wellcome LibraryConservation for Digitisation• Conservation staff have been contributing to digital projects since 2009.• Digital preparation is mostly stabilisation and includes: the removal ofstaples, sleeving of material that is vulnerable and brittle, humidification,flattening, repair and sometimes disbinding.• We have worked with both our Digital Preparators and our photographicstaff to help facilitate careful handling of items during the digitisationprocess.• Loss from manipulation is sometimes unavoidable. All components areretained so as to have no loss of information. This can be done by placingthese pieces in mylar ‘L’ sleeves or envelopes and documenting theiroriginal location. Digital Preparators keep all loose parts together so thatthey can be reattached after digitisation and flagged so that conservationcan repair after digitisation.
  13. 13. Conservation for DigitisationExample of an archive letter that needs stabilisation, carried out by DigitalPreparators or Imaging Technicians
  14. 14. Question: What is going to happen to theoriginal physical item?Conservation for Digitisation• A Collections Care approach needs to know what will happen to the originalafter digitisation.• Here at the Wellcome we digitise and return items to the stores on-site or to off-site storage – we are keeping physical items as the technology is still not provenlong term.• Occasionally we won’t retain the original: we have numerous copies of ourcollection catalogues and after digitising we will only retain one hard copy.• Sometimes we might undo original library bindings that are falling apart. Smallergroups of material can be easier to retrieve, use and digitise when separated.• The fact that a bookbinding might have fallen apart can be a good thing andmake it easier to image. The broken binding can allow the imaging processeasier access to the gutter
  15. 15. Wellcome Digital Library Programme
  16. 16. Condition Surveys• Are materials catalogued or uncatalogued? You can’t do a generalcondition survey without a descriptive framework. Materials must becatalogued before digitisation.• In archives there are several groups of material housed together – brittlepaper, photographs, books, documents and letters. An initial random visualinspection survey can highlight issues for Image Technicians or DigitalPreparators.• When working in partnership with other institutions there is a dualresponsibility of care. When loaning items there has to be some acceptanceof wear and tear from handling during image capture of an item.• The loan of materials has to be fully documented, usually as a tick boxsurvey that describes the condition of the item, as it takes too much time tofill out a more standard detailed report.Conservation for Digitisation
  17. 17. Case StudyEugenics Scrapbooks – overlaid newspaper cuttingsConservation for Digitisation
  18. 18. The adhered newspaper cuttings overlap each otherand so need to be folded back to be fully digitised.They are held using a flexible Plastazote stick.
  19. 19. Conservation for DigitisationUsing this technique there is no creasingof the newspaper.
  20. 20. Case StudyLarge format worksConservation for Digitisation
  21. 21. Conservation for DigitisationIn this example 30 cm folded becomes 130 cm laid out.Technicians need to have safe ways to support these extended items, opening out andfolding back again into their original folds.
  22. 22. Case StudyModern journalsConservation for DigitisationModern cloth case bindingsought to be straightforward todigitise. But on inspection thebinding style is oversewn, acommon practice for journalbindings that restricts theopening and image access tothe print in the gutter.These might be an example ofthe need for disbindingpreparation and boxing afterdigitising.
  23. 23. Conservation for DigitisationIronically older material is often easier to digitise because the chemistry of thematerials is sound – 19th and 20th century material can be brittle which makes it moredifficult to handle without damage.
  24. 24. Case Study3D objectsConservation for DigitisationAll practitioners need towork together to establishguidelines of all aspects ofthe digital practice.Arrange handling trainingfor all of those involvedand understand how toensure the best care forphysical collections duringthe process.