Dabbling in Digitization

Kacey Lewis, Digitization Specialist, works with 16mm film

Due to the rapid invasion of technology in today’s society, the archival world is undergoing some major changes. At the NMU Archives, we digitize material for two main reasons: preservation and accessibility.

Kacey Lewis is our Digitization Specialist here at the NMU Archives. She works to preserve existing collections of digital media, and reformats collections to be more technologically friendly. For example, Kacey is currently working on a deteriorating film collection. The original 16mm film is losing its quality and therefore must be converted into a digital format before its content is no longer accessible. This reformatting ensures that the film will be usable for the next few years at least.

Accessibility is an important aspect of any archives’ function. With our society’s increasing dependency on digital technology, the NMU Archives is working to make our collections available to researchers far and wide through project websites. In early 2010, we were awarded a grant by the National Historic Publications and Records Committee (NHPRC) to digitize a large portion of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company records collection. The digitized documents, as well as information about the digitization process used here at NMU, can now be viewed online by visiting http://archives.nmu.edu/cci/.

Although digital formats have many benefits, there is a downside. Technology changes at a rapid pace, with upgrades and new software coming out each year. This makes it difficult to ensure that our digital material will be accessible in years to come. For example, remember floppy disks? The once ‘innovative’ technology is now almost obsolete, and it is difficult to find the hardware necessary to read one. Many offices once stored all of their important documentation on floppy disks, hoping to preserve it more efficiently than paper filing systems; now, their records are all but inaccessible. This phenomenon is one of the main reasons that archives are only dabbling in digitization.

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.

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