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... from a preservation perspective:
Although digitisation is mainly done for access, there are also a few good reasons to
digitise for preservation:
digital copies allow to put precious and fragile material away, and limit the usage
considerably. Ultimately, this increases the life-time of rare material,
digital copies are replacements for unstable materials,
digital surrogates may serve as back-ups in case of loss of the originals.
Digitisation for preservation
In some cases, there is no choice other than to digitise, as Sven Allerstrand, Director-
General of the National Archive of Recorded Sound and Moving Images, Sweden, made
clear:"For the audio-visual world, digitisation is not an option to improve access. It is a
must to secure the survival of the content." As he points out, digitising these audio-visual
recordings for rescue is a cost- and resource intensive venture:"There are rough estimates
about the audio-visual holdings in Europe.There are 10 million hours of film, 20 million
hours of video, and 20 million hours of audio.This is only broadcast material. (...) The costs
to transfer [this material] from analogue to digital is EUR 2000 per film per hour, and
EUR 200 per video per hour. It is a matter of billions to preserve the audio-visual broadcast
heritage.Therefore, we have to make a choice of which material is important for the
Sven Allerstrand, DigiCULT ERT, Stockholm, June 14, 2001
However, as Webb argues, these promises can only be fulfilled if:
the quality of the digital surrogates also satisfies the user: Diverting use away from
the original demands to have the highest quality possibly available for the digital
the level of risk to the originals during the digitisation process can be controlled:
Avoiding damage to the original requires planning and vigilance,
being able to provide and maintain access to the digital copy:This is considered the
most difficult issue and therefore will be dealt with separately in this report.
For Webb, all these issues are problematic and need an active approach.
... from a management perspective:
Digitisation projects require utmost attention from the management side as:
digitisation projects are complex:The bigger they are, the higher the complexity
and the higher the demand on management,
almost anything is achievable at a certain cost:These costs are not necessarily
monetary but may be human resources,
the cost is always more than expected.
In many cases, cultural heritage organisations underestimate the project management
skills necessary for a complex digitisation project. Managers need to understand and
communicate the objectives, employ dedicated staff, try to involve external expertise,
develop clear specifications, regularly control the quality, and select the best service
providers for doing the job.
However, the most pressing challenge today comes form the sheer quantity of material
that waits to be digitised.