Monday, October 30, 2006

This past week’s reading really dealt with issues my institution is dealing with for a while now. Over the past decade the National Archives has been trying to find ways to provide access to its vast holdings through the web. You can find many digitized records throughout the Archives web site. Many items were digitized in the late 1990’s during the Electronic Access Project (EAP), which included upwards of 125,000 records. These items were scanned for access and not for preservation purposes. Even though the Archives has its own Digital Imaging Lab, which undertakes scanning projects, this large scale project was undertaken in collaboration with a contractor. Over time other digital items have been added to ARC. One example is when the permanent Public Vaults exhibit opened at Archives I. I believe that most or all of the records in the exhibit were digitized and placed in ARC. In addition, digital versions of live exhibits can be found at the Archives on-line exhibit hall.

Besides for the creation of the digital images during EAP, the “Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access” were created by the lab and later revised in the 2004 “Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access”. These guidelines set internal NARA standards for digitizing archival records and the creation of production master image files. The standards not only address creating digital surrogates for facilitating access, but also reproduction, which is considered a form of preservation. This can be important for frequently requested records that can be damaged if frequently handled. In the future, it seems that digitization will be the only option for our Special Media Preservation Laboratory. There has been an on-going project to duplicate several high risk negative series on film. The lab has already informed us that Kodak is no longer producing the film used in the project and that future projects will be done will high resolution digital cameras.

Another topic from this week is preserving digital history. One method is to constantly migrate to new formats, but NARA is currently attempting to build the Electronic Records Archives (ERA). The goal of the system is to provide access to all types of electronic records via the Internet – by anyone, anywhere, at anytime – across time and technology. ERA would evolve over time and not be dependent on the programs that created a particular record or allowed it to be accessed. The Lockheed Martin Corporation was awarded the contract to design ERA. The Archives currently has a system called AAD or Access to Archival Databases which provides online access over the Internet to a selection of NARA’s electronic records from archival databases. This system gives access to born electronic records and currently has an index to photographs from FEMA, which features born digital images.


Blogger Misha Griffith said...

Thanks for the information from the archives. You bring up a good issue--what is a more practical use of the limited funds--digitizing collections and putting them on line, or digitizing catalogs and getting those on line? Obviously the latter is drastically important, and does not suffer the same problems of quality control that the actual collection faces. Yet, the first is the more publically "sexy" project (no bucks, no Buck Rodgers, as Tom Wolfe once wrote)Difficult choices for the NA.

8:27 AM  

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