Digitising books – An African solution?

I was recently asked to put together a proposal for a mission publisher located in a small, African kingdom.  Their archives include documents dating as far back as 1826 and they were interested in finding out how this archive could be digitized for preservation purposes and as a means to provide access to researchers and academics.  The main problems they faced were limited funds, no expertise and outdated equipment.

So, to reduce costs and to protect fragile printed materials I proposed the digitization process take place on site, with the scanning conducted by a  staff member who would work as a digitization assistant for the duration of the project.  This assistant would need to be trained in the digitization procedures, which would consist of the following:

  • Each page is converted into a digital image by scanning
  • The original image is saved as a high-res version on an external drive
  • This image is then cleaned and cropped
  • Text-recognition software is run over the file
  • The book or document is saved as PDF

The basic equipment required would be a laptop, a scanner (specialized for scanning books) and an external drive (for storage), with DVDs provided for backup purposes.

A high-res version of the document/book should be kept for preservation purposes in a folder on the external drive with any cataloguing or bibliography information available saved in a text file alongside it, with a lower-res version available for access online. The lower-res version of the file would be saved as a PDF and used for access and distribution purposes.

The digitized version of the documents/books could be made available as PDFs through a project website, categorized by, for example, author/publisher, type of document and date.

I’ve created digital archives of the back catalogs of academic journals before and a similar process seemed to work well.  Any suggestions or advice appreciated …

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