Intro to Digital Imaging

Spring, 2009 – Professor Claudia Perry

GSLIS 757 – Introduction to Digital Imaging

“Early developers of digitization projects often were trailblazers for whom few guidelines or standards existed. Recent efforts have stressed the importance of developing and implementing standards and identifying “good practices” in an attempt to ensure the sustainability and interoperability of digitized resources and collections. This course will introduce students to the theoretical and practical aspects of digital imaging, with an emphasis on evolving guidelines and lessons learned from existing digitization projects. Among the topics to be examined are: selection principles, project and workflow planning, digitization of images, file formats, quality control, rights management, metadata, access, funding issues, assessment and evaluation, digital asset management, and preservation. Theoretical concepts will be reinforced through hands-on production experience in digitizing and managing images and/or archival materials.” (from professor’s syllabus)


In this class we learned how digital collections are developed, and how precise metadata is created to allow them to be search quickly and effectively. We learned about digitizing standards, preservation considerations, xml schemas, and were given the opportunity to for some “hands-on” digitalization.

Our first assignment was to compare and contrast four digital collections or databases that include postcards in them. Two collections that I chose, OAISTER and IMLS, were really union catalogs or collections of collections – they harvest other collection’s metadata that is “exposed” to them via OAI-PMH (Dublin Core based protocol developed especially for metadata harvesting). I found it fascinating how collections can be linked together and searched when metadata is properly created according to international standards.

Professor Suprenant collects postcards from New York State that deal with rivers, canals and harbors, and GSLIS 757 has been using his collection as a “hands-on” digital project for students. Each student is given four postcards to enter into a Content DM collection, hosted by Metro, called Waterways of New York. He or she learns how to handle archival items with nylon gloves, how to scan each item according to standards, and how to convert the subsequent TIFF files into JPEG format using size and compression criteria. Working in teams of two, students study the fronts and backs of their cards for metadata information, and enter their data into spreadsheets which are later entered into Content DM’s front end. The whole process involves learning much about postcards: their history, copyright considerations, trademarks, logos, geographic information, as well as using controlled vocabularies, and points out that digital “imagers” need to know a lot about the subject matter as well as the technology involved.

The final project for class was to select a digital project and write a case study on it, showing how the collection was created, digitized, and how the manager(s) of the project made important decisions. What were the goals and objectives? How was material selected? Was outsourcing considered? Was staff training required? What naming and digitalization standards were used? What conservation and preservation techniques were used? What about quality control? What about cataloging and metadata? How was the final project delivered? How were users authenticated (if needed)? How was the project evaluated?

I chose Brooklyn Public Library’s project to digitalize the first 61 years of a newspaper called the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online) as my case study, and my paper can be accessed from this link. This was an enjoyable project, and I learned much from the process. I also contacted the projects second in command and was able to ask her questions that I could not source anywhere else. I learned how collaboration between teams is essential – in this case BPL coordinated efforts of Library of Congress, OCLC and Olive Software. And I learned about historical newspapers–both how difficult they are to digitize, and how popular they are for historians, students and the general reading public.