4. How should I plan digitisation?

Before you embark on a digitisation project you will need to have a good idea of the costs involved, the time the work will take and whether you will carry out the work in-house or using an external company. You will also need to link together the reproduction, associated information and the original item.

How do I design the project?

To give a framework for your project you need a policy that covers digitisation and a plan.

  • Spectrum 5.0 Reproduction [Collections Trust, 2017]  will help you formulate a policy for reproduction, whether digital or analogue. It looks at what reproductions to make and associated standards, naming and numbering digital files and working copies. It also considers how to store and back-up the resulting reproductions and how to manage rights compliance.
  • The Australian Digital access to collections toolkit is aimed at small to medium museums. It has information on developing a digital access plan, including a one page template document to download and use.
  • Capture your collections 2012 – small museum version   [Canadian Heritage Information Network] offers a comprehensive approach to planning digitisation in the form of an online training course.
  • Tate’s Archives & Access Toolkit [2017]  includes a section on designing an archive digitisation project.  Its section on funding and managing a project looks at how they assembled a project team, considered conservation and made the funding case.

Who should do the work?

Factors to consider when deciding whether to carry out work within your institution or contract it out include the scale and complexity of the project, your timescales and in-house skills as well as any specialist equipment required.

  • The opportunities and possible challenges associated with each approach are considered in Deciding to outsource or digitize in‐house [Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, Washington, 2017] which also offers links to further resources.

How can I work out the costs involved and the time it will take?

The up-front costs of  digitisation are likely to be your main concern, and may well dictate the scale of your project as well as how you fund and, potentially, phase it.

However, you also need to consider the ‘life-cycle’ cost of the project, taking into account the curation, conservation and storage of the resulting digital assets.

  • The Digital Library Federation, based in Virginia, has developed a handy digitisation cost calculator that allows you to estimate the up-front costs of digitisation work. Enter the staff costs of people working on your project and, as well as image-capture, you can factor in other processes such as quality-checking and creating metadata. (Ignore the fact that the default currency is US$; there is no need to do any conversion and you can just enter the costs in your own currency.)
  • Calculating the life-cycle cost of digitised collections is more challenging, but the Digital Preservation Handbook [Digital Preservation Coalition, 2015] includes a section called Business cases, benefits, costs, and impact. The section on costs includes an explanation of life-cycle cost modelling and guidance on how to factor this in to the planning process.
  • The Curation Costs Exchange is a European community-owned platform that offers useful advice about life-cycle costing. It gives members the chance to share and compare cost data for digital curation.

Return to what does digitising collections involve?

Did you find this pathway useful? We’d love to hear your feedback or ideas. Please email info@culture24.org.uk