Increase the Scale of Special Collections Digitization

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Problem statement: While the mass digitization partnerships have focused largely on published works, our approaches to special collections will have to evolve ensure that special collections are not marginalized.

Impact: The collective collection is incomplete without the special collections held by libraries, archives, and museums. Amplifying the scale of digitization of primary source materials will serve researchers and underscore the unique value that each institution can contribute.

Through various communication channels, we are helping to raise awareness in the special collections community of the implications of digitizing the widely-held material and how this will impact special collections. The Shifting Gears essay suggests some ways in which we might change our thinking about digitization of special collections. We're now investigating specific ways to move that work forward.

In conjunction with staff from partner institutions, we're investigating the challenges in getting more of the vast amounts of unique content in special collections into the user flow, specifically aiming to enable more efficient digitization of special collections. One activity is to work with the community on digitization of special formats, including activities such as the following:

  • A forum on digitization in archives and special collections was held on August 29, 2007, and we have begun to put this information into the hands of special collections curators and surface issues for further action. The essay Shifting Gears was an outcome of the forum.
  • An investigation into format-specific scanning stations (for fairly uniform flat formats, such as slides, postcards, documents) and ways to get them into the community.
  • Work on rights issues related to digitization of special collections continues in the current work agenda with the Introduce Balance in Rights Management project.


For more information

Ricky Erway
Senior Program Officer