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Digitization Dispatch: Call for Entries!

Hello again from the ground floor at the National Museum of Natural History! I thought I'd take this opportunity to refresh the collective memory about the digital History, Art, and Culture collection we have been working to build. 

Ideally, we'd have a digital copy of every book on every shelf in the Libraries, always available to researchers anywhere with a wifi signal. We'd have digital copies that mirror physical collections in both conventional and unconventional ways–from any number of simultaneous collections and uses. But until then, here we are, still in the early stages of (more) complete digital access. So, we have to make some decisions about selections that are informed by criteria particular to the requirements of the ways we do digitization. 

First, what makes a book a good scanning candidate, or how do we select?

  • It's in our collection. We need to have access to the book in order to scan it.
  • It was published before 1923. That means the publication date needs to be 1922 or prior. More on copyright can be found here

And that's it for first level clearance. Anything we have that was published prior to 1923 has potential. Second level clearance factors are a little more subjective and have to do with the book's physicality. Logistically, we are talking about creating image files of pages with a digital camera. Our scanning partner, the Internet Archive, literally takes a picture of every page. So, that means wide margins help. A high contrast of the legible letters on the page helps. Binding that easily opens fairly wide helps. Pages that are sturdy enough to handle being turned at a fairly rapid pace helps. There's some wiggle room with each of these criteria, so if you have a title in mind that's no longer in copyright, speak up! We'll have a look to determine scannibilty and ultimate access from the internet. And that's about it. That's the gist of the criteria for selecting titles for digitization. Please feel free to suggest titles in the comments! 

                                                                                                       Photo courtesy of Flickr user matt707




  1. The ideal option, you are speaking about, of having a digital copy of every book, seems to me wonderful, but very hard to complete, wish you to manage eventually!

  2. Yes! Very hard to complete! It’s good to have goals and job security! 🙂 Thanks!

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