Guide to Digitization


Module #4 focused on the different purposes, methods, and uses of digitization and issues related to it. In creating a Guide to Digitization, one must first consider three essential questions and the answers to them.

  • What can you capture, and not capture, when you digitize something?

Digitizing an image or object can help to create core content that can represent and disseminate information, text, and at time audio-visual content. However, according to Melissa Terras, “additional infrastructure (such as a database, a website front end, and an explanatory apparatus or additional teaching materials) is required in order to deliver the content successfully to users.”

  • Which forms of digitization make the most sense for different types of items?

Our activity nicely illustrates the differentiation of digitization and its effectiveness based on the type of item. The following categories were used to digitally asses three images and corresponding videos of the “21st Century Kitchen”: size, weight, color, texture, all sides, sound smell. Digital Images captured an average of 50 percent of these categories, while digital video captured an average of 90 percent. The objects included text, food products, and inanimate objects. Images worked best for text-heavy items while videos worked best for objects or substances: texture, size, sound, or weight.

  • To what extent does working with digitized representations impact how we understand different kinds of items, and/or our ability to use them for different purposes?

Marlene Manoff identifies what she calls, “Textual Scholarship,” which address the physical aspects of a source in addition to the text itself. I think this is important to consider even when dealing with what many researchers would largely dismiss as an essential consideration. For artifacts, I think that descriptions, dimensions, and audio-visual aids are extremely helpful but not always practical or affordable for those (libraries, archives, etc.) doing the digitizing. OCR is also an extremely useful technology for translating and providing information from non-traditional texts.

While many digitized representations are utilized for the purpose of research and/or learning in an educational environment, several of our readings pointed to the growing interest and availability of digitized information for public audience interest (such as Google Books) as well as  commercial digitization ventures.

  • My “Guide to Digitization” would include the following components:
  1. Following the Digitization Guideline of the Library of Congress in terms of scanning and color settings as well as formatting.
  2. As Paul Conway argued, digital humanists should always be cognizant of the intellectual premise, goals, and “meaning-making” that is created through and by the digitization process. As Manoff stated, “If print and electronic versions are different objects, we should not treat them as if they are interchangeable.”
  3. We must discern the cultural purpose, academic relevance, and historical significance of the original item(s) when considering the best method and format of digitization. This credo should guide the digitization of individual items as well as overarching goals of collections, databases, or exhibits. It includes decisions whether to enhance, zoom, crop, etc.
  4. Digitization should never be a substitute for preservation. While digitization can reduce wear and tear, digital surrogates should serve a greater purpose.
  5. Within reason and with given resources, the digitization of images, objects, texts, and other forms of media should be accompanied by as much information and technology as possible including OCR, indexing, searchable terms, and cross-referencing.

CC_Prelinger Archives

1) URL:

2) Terms and Conditions:

3) Collection Summary according to the website:
Prelinger Archives was founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger in New York City. Over the next twenty years, it grew into a collection of over 60,000 “ephemeral” (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films. In 2002, the film collection was acquired by the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

Prelinger Archives remains in existence, holding approximately 11,000 digitized and videotape titles (all originally derived from film) and a large collection of home movies, amateur and industrial films acquired since 2002. Its primary collection emphasis has turned toward home movies and amateur films, with approximately 12,000 items held as of Spring 2015. Its goal remains to collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven’t been collected elsewhere. Included are films produced by and for many hundreds of important US corporations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, community and interest groups, and educational institutions. There are four main collections: commercials, studio clips, Coronet Instructional Films, Prelinger Archives Home Movies.

4) This one seems to be both with several video download formats. Although I’ve listed it as CC, but this particular entry clearly lists it as in the Public Doman and links the following:


5) PD_Sleep for Health


CC_Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collections Online

1) URL:

2) Terms and Conditions:

3) Collection Summary according to their website: Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 130 member institutions from across the state. This site provides access to thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings that have been digitized by member institutions so that they may be available to researchers, students, and the general public.

In addition, Digital Commonwealth members may apply for free digitization services from the Boston Public Library as part of a grant awarded by the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) and funded by the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act).

The Digital Commonwealth is a web portal or gateway to digital assets hosted by Massachusetts cultural institutions.  Cultural institutions include libraries, museums, historical societies, archives, research institutions, and other repositories of our cultural heritage.  Digital Commonwealth uses Open Archives Initiative (OAI), a protocol for metadata harvesting, and Dublin Core.  Dublin Core is an international metadata standard that has been for describing countless digital collections worldwide. Simple or Standard Dublin Core consists of a set of 15 optional and repeatable elements. The elements are used to provide information about an object, such as its title, creator, date, subject, etc. For Digital Commonwealth, Dublin Core (encoded in XML) will be harvested via the OAI protocol and incorporated into the search index.

4) Listed with each photo is relevant info and a handy citation generator:

Chicago Style: “Social Religious Building, George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tenn..”  Card.  1930.  Digital Commonwealth,  (accessed September 14, 2016).

Title: Social Religious Building, George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tenn.
Date: [ca. 1930–1945]
Terms of Use: No known copyright restrictions.
No known restrictions on use.

5) CC_Social Religious Building, George Peabody College for Teachers



CC_Harpeth Hall School Digital Collection

  1. URL:

2) Terms and Conditions:

3) Collection Summary:
This collection contains 225 texts, and I helped to digitize it as the archivist of the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, TN. It contains yearbooks, catalogs, newspapers, and miscellaneous books from 1897 to 2007. It is hosted by Internet Archive which contains thousands of collections and millions of texts, photos, audio, and video. The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.

The 1920 yearbook, Milestones, can be downloaded full-text in several formats or embedded and is keyword searchable online. It is in the public domain.

4) This is an example of CC sharing, but is also PD due to the date of publication prior to 1923. has implemented 1) a license chooser in the upload process, 2) the CC marks on works licensed/copyright waived with CC, 3) a subset of the CC REL metadata specification, and 4) a way to search for CC licensed content.

5) Example:


©_Meharry Medical College Digital Collection

1) URL:

2) Terms and Conditions:

I chose this database because it is neither CC or PD but is available for fair use access and personal download with a watermark. I think it is important to show that many databases and digital collections are neither completely restricted nor free to use in any way.

The collection states: Images in these collections are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Archives Department of Meharry Medical College Library. To order a reproduction or to inquire about permission to publish, please contact or call 615.327.6470.

3) Collection Summary (Larger Collection):
A Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University is a collection of primary resources from twenty-two HBCU libraries and archives. It includes several thousand scanned pages and represents HBCU libraries first collaborative effort to make a historic collection digitally available. Collections are contributed from member libraries of the Historically Black College and University Library Alliance.  The collection includes photographs, university correspondence, manuscripts, images of campus buildings, alumni letters, memorabilia, and programs from campus events.

Specific Collection:
A national treasure, Meharry Medical College is the oldest, private historically black medical school in the country. Founded in 1876 as the medical department of Central Tennessee College, Meharry became an independent Medical College in 1915. Meharry includes schools in medicine (the oldest and largest of all schools), dentistry, and graduate studies.  The Meharry digital collection contributes images having the following themes: Presidents, Campus Buildings, Faculty, Alumni, the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the School of Graduate Studies, the School of Pharmacy which closed in 1938, and the School of Nursing which closed in 1962.

4) While free to access and download with watermark for personal use, the collection states: Images in these collections are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Archives Department of Meharry Medical College Library. To order a reproduction or to inquire about permission to publish, please call 615.327.6470.

5) Example: ©_Nursing Students, 1919


CC_NASA on the Commons

1) GReat Images in NASA (GRIN):

This site has been moved and renamed “NASA on the Commons”:

2) Terms and Conditions:

3) Collection summary according to the website:
The Great Images in NASA (GRIN) system provides a database of photos documenting NASA. Photos include: aircraft structures, aircraft design, aircraft models, wind tunnel tests, materials research, space programs, astronaut training, robotic planetary exploration and images taken by NASA spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Mars Global Surveyor. GRIN contains many, but not all of the most popular images from NASA’s history. It also contains important historical images that you may not have seen before. We established GRIN to help journalists, publishers, educators, authors and the general public find high-quality historical photos. Photos were selected both for their historical importance and their visual impact. Having been moved to Flickr (owned by Yahoo), over 2,500 images are supported copyright free with the following conditions:

  • NASA materials may not be used to state or imply the endorsement by NASA or by any NASA employee of a commercial product, service or activity, or used in any other manner that might mislead.
  • NASA should be acknowledged as the source of its material.
  • It is unlawful to falsely claim copyright or other rights in NASA material.
  • NASA shall in no way be liable for any costs, expenses, claims or demands arising out of use of NASA’s cassettes and photographs by a recipient’s distributees.
  • NASA personnel are not authorized to sign indemnity or hold harmless statements, release from copyright infringement, or documents granting exclusive use rights.

4) This is a sharing service so it is CC. The photo linked as the example also says NASA Public Domain. However certain photos are labeled “Some rights reserved” which takes you to:

5) Example:


Download options:


Also labeled:
Privacy: Public
Safety level: Safe


PD_The J. Paul Getty Museum

1) URL:

2) Terms and Conditions:

3) Collection Summary: The J. Paul Getty Museum collects, presents, conserves, and interprets great works of art. This includes: antiquities, drawings, manuscripts, paintings, photographs, sculpture, and decorative arts. In addition to their online collection the Getty also hosts rotating exhibits, educational programs for a variety of ages and special topics, maintains a research and conservation department, fifteen published books (some available full-text online), public programs (artist talks, performances, films, and tours). The Getty operates under what is called an “Open Content Program.” As stated on their site: The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images (for download) to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.

4) Images are not labeled CC or PD but under their Open Content Policy it explains that they offer works in the PD.

5) Example: PD_Sunrise (Marine) by Claude Monet,0.4099,0.68

Before downloading, users must fill out a form indicating use and purpose:



Defining Digital Humanities


For Module #1 we were tasked with reading five articles and completing three hands-on activities. All of these assignments encouraged me to delve deeper into the many meanings and iterations of what Digital Humanities (DH) represents.  As Amanda Visconti, a Digital Humanist, writes for the London School of Economics and Political Science, “We’re builders, tech users, teachers, and thinkers around digital tools exploring literature, history, and other cultural heritage fields” ( She describes the heart of Digital Humanities as a professional field of people who do many different things and who expressed intellectual inquiry in a variety of ways. For me, one part of defining DH is to define “who” is a Digital Humanist. Visconti explains that someone involved in DH is not one but all of these things: builders, tech users, teachers, and thinkers. I concur. The second part of defining DH is the “what,” which is drastically more complex. In many ways, to answer the “what” is to trace the field’s history from Humanities Computing through the “digital turn” which has landed us in our current understanding of DH. Today there is an emphasis on analysis and experiential learning over production and data dissemination that suggests, as one author wrote, “To do digital history is to create a new framework, an ontology, through the technology for people to experience.” From quantitative to qualitative, from an ends to a means, from breadth to depth–seems to be the focus of DH post-2004.  However, DH does encompass a unique and distinctive skill-set that is both technical as well as pedagogical. So all of that to say, here is my best attempt to define Digital Humanities.

Digital Humanities is a subject that encompasses technology, critical thinking, creativity, and scholarship in a way that lives online and allows individuals and groups to participate as both producers and consumers. It is inherently multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and accessible but focuses on text and data related to the humanities and social sciences. DH also represents a paradigmatic shift — providing a new framework for the ways in which we ask questions, learn and transfer information, and simultaneously teach/learn. It is both a cycle and a matrix that maintains two common factors: 1) the use of mechanized media and 2) the study of the human condition. Beyond these two factors the manifestation of Digital Humanities, as a philosophy and methodology, is intentionally fluid and dynamic.