6. Digitization

Chapter 6 of Managing Microforms in the Digital Age

Digitization from microform collections is rapidly increasing online access to research materials. Most microform vendors such as Readex and ProQuest are converting materials from their microfilm vaults into digital collections. Additionally, the NEH and the Library of Congress are partnering in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) to convert the microfilm holdings of each state’s newspaper collection into keyword searchable image archives at the LC Chronicling America website. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ This is a decentralized project with each state managing their state-wide project. Other similar initiatives are occurring in libraries, archives and cultural institutions.

The quality of the online version often depends on the quality of the microfilm. If the source documents, such as historic newspapers, were damaged or incomplete at the time of filming, the digital collection will be similarly lacking. Some vendors and projects use bitonal (black-and-white) scanning instead of grayscale because the resulting digital files are smaller and thus less expensive to make and store. Other projects want to represent the tonality of the film, so they scan in grayscale. Another key decision point is whether to provide page-level access or article-level access. Article level provides more accurate results based on the project’s development of relevant article types. Article-level databases are usually more time-consuming and expensive to produce. Page-level access provides full-text searching throughout the content and may have some facility to provide relevance factors.

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