International Congress on Archives 2004 pres 180 METCALFE C USA GSU 01 E Page 7
International Congress on Archives
The Genealogical Society of Utah
Digital images are discrete individual objects that by external observation reveal no information about their
content. Metadata is data used to describe digital images in a manner that allows for organized access and
information about the images. Metadata can provide information about the content description about the images,
the technical data about the creation of the images and the intellectual property rights about the images.
Indexing information linked to the images can be stored in the metadata. Administrative information necessary
to administer the images within the organization can be added to the metadata.
This metadata must also be stored in electronic form. As the images are migrated and converted in the
preservation process the metadata must also be migrated and converted. Careful checks must be made to assert
that the metadata is coordinated and synchronized to the images as the images move through the preservation
When implementing any kind of system for delivery of digital images, consideration must be given to the
methods of delivery of the distribution images. Distribution copies of digital images can be delivered in several
different ways. Archives may desire to keep distribution costs low or to limit access to the images. A stand-
alone computer dedicated to viewing the images may be a viable choice. This computer could use CD's or
DVD's of images. The images could be viewed in much the same way as microfilm would be viewed on a
microfilm viewer. While this system might be practical for a small collection, a larger collection may require a
more sophisticated approach.
Larger collections of distribution images may be loaded onto computer disc arrays that would allow for large
numbers of images to be stored. These disc arrays can be configured through a network to provide access to the
images by a network of computers. The images from the disc array could also be delivered via a server to either
an intranet or an Internet site. The server system can be scaled from a single server / disc array serving a local
intranet to enterprise-sized computer systems designed to deliver millions of images per day.
Charging a fee for access to the images can be used to offset the cost of image delivery. The success of charging
fees for access is dependant upon the perceived value of the images by the user. Value can be added to the
images by providing indices to the images. Content that is desirable to the public and enhanced access to that
content can expand the user base and enhance their ability to use the images.
The usage rights to images has been a topic of concern. This has been accentuated by the ease of delivery of
digital images. Careful research must be undertaken to assert the archive's rights to digitize microfilm or
original documents in their possession. Purchased microfilm in many cases may not allow for conversion to
digital images. Published volumes may contain active copyrights that will not allow for digital conversion.
Manuscripts may be protected from copy and distribution. Permissions must be sought for such digital
conversion. An understanding of a particular country's copyright laws is paramount. Careful documentation
should be maintained as a regular part of a digital imaging program. Contracts, letters of release, and other types
of documentation related to imaging rights should be retained. Because digital images allow for greater access
by the public, increased exposure to legal action can be anticipated unless assertive action is taken to determine
and guard the rights of the archive to the digitized material. Legal consultation may be necessary to determine
the archive's rights and duties.
Microfilm collections provide an excellent preservation method for valuable collections. In today's world of
computers and electronic technology, digital images provide unprecedented access to the information that
archives hold. The process of digital imaging and microfilm conversion must be carefully considered. If the
process is properly implemented the archive will be rewarded with a system that meets the needs of the archive
and its patrons. By capturing original documents with digital cameras or converting microfilm to digital images,
archives can provide the access desired by users. Creating and linking indices to the images will allow users to
access records once difficult to search and enhance their research experience. Increased access to records can
mean more patron use of the valuable documents held by the archives. The costs of implementing digital images
from microfilm are greater than delivering microfilm, but the rewards are worth the effort. Allowing more
patrons to use the records of the archives is the ultimate reward of a carefully crafted digital imaging program.