When you think of an archive, what comes to mind? Do you usually picture a physical place with old and rare materials? While this is absolutely correct, modern technology has allowed for archives and preservation to be moved online and into digital archives.
Richards Free Library has a wonderful local history room that functions as our in-person archive, but I’m also developing our digital archives. There are many benefits to digitization and digital archives, and I hope that adding more materials to ours will serve as a benefit to our community.
Some of the exciting things about digital archives include easier access for homebound patrons and folks from out of town who are looking for Newport History. Digitizing also acts as preservation – physical materials deteriorate even with the best care, and are always at risk for loss or damage. Having a digital archive doesn’t mean the physical one goes away – it’s simply an additional way to access the materials!
So, what goes into digitizing?
While it can seem like a daunting process, all you really need is a scanner and a place to store the files. Some of the quickest materials to digitize are photographs, as they are single items and don’t require scanning multiple pages. However, with photographs you often have to be more aware of the resolution and color quality of your scanner than with text-based documents. Right now, RFL is still benefitting from the generous loan of a scanner from the New Hampshire State Library, and I am working my way through digitizing pictures from Newport’s past. The second part of digitizing is about resource description. Wherever your materials are ending up, they need to be easy to find. A description makes this possible. Photographs can be harder to describe than a document, especially if the photo has no description written on the back. Using things like subject headings and descriptive tags can help make photographs findable. We have some wonderful pictures of Newport’s past that I’m excited to share with our community! Stay tuned for updates on those projects.
We’re in the process of applying for a grant toget a scanner that RFL could have permanently, which would be a great asset to the archives. Digitizing is often slow and steady work, but permanent access to a scanner would allow for continuous additions to our digital archives.
As always, don’t be afraid to reach out to me if you have questions, a research request, or want to chat about Newport History!