About continued

About Dig4E, continued

The primary goal of Dig4E is to fill a major gap between the technical complexity, sophistication, and maturity of many of the international standards for digitization and the knowledge required to be a professional practitioner in the cultural heritage sector. The underlying international standards for still image and audio and video digital transformations (including metadata) are largely in place and quite stable (still image and analog audio) or clearly settling into place (analog video). Guidelines for applying complex technical standards, however, are challenging to understand, use, and interpret in the classroom or in practical local contexts. One consequence is that libraries, archives, and museums may not be applying existing and emerging standards as well or as consistently as they could or should.

The complexity of existing standards and guidelines for digitization is a major conundrum for long-term preservation, because standards-based digitization is one of the principal mechanisms for creating digital content worth preserving. We also know that the users of digitized cultural heritage resources online, especially users with domain expertise on their subject of inquiry, are increasingly demanding access to standards-conforming archival surrogates.

We cannot predict the long-term technological future with any certainty, but we know that libraries, archives, and museums are living on borrowed time when it comes to the rescue and digital reformatting of analog audio-visual resources. What’s fueling the existential threat to audio-visual heritage is a combination of its dependency on sometimes-obsolete playback equipment, the fragility of storage media created in the 20th century, and the time it takes to read, assess, and reformat time-based media. Cultural heritage professionals must act within the framework of existing standards, make difficult selection decisions, and dedicate limited resources to saving what they can.

Standards & Guidelines

The three learning modules in Dig4E focus on still image digitization of visual resources, analog audio resources conversion, and analog videotape conversion. In these three domains, supporting technologies and the underlying national and international standards either have stabilized or are sufficiently stable to inspire confidence in the long-term viability and usefulness of the digital files produced in the conversion process.

Still image digitization is the most highly standardized, stable, and mature conversion process, as evidenced by a standards framework developed almost a decade ago that is still highly relevant today. Current guidelines developed by the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) represent an admirable effort to embed knowledge of image science metrics in workflows previously dependent upon subjective visual inspection. [1] Dig4E serves as an explanatory bridge between guidelines for best practices and the underlying technical standards for archival quality digital images.

 Audio digitization guidelines developed by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA-TC 04) are accessible (readable) to an audience of specialists, but are not tied particularly well to the rich array of international standards that anchor the guidelines. [2] The Dig4E educational materials for classroom and workshop settings complement and enhance the IASA guidelines while also focusing on getting the job done with the help of third-party service providers. 

 Videotape digitization is on the cusp of stabilization around agreed upon international standards for digital conversion, file formats, and the technical wrappers that facilitate exchange and access. IASA has released a proposed synthesis of recommendations on the preservation of video recordings (IASA-TC 06), with the initial emphasis on the digital conversion of analog videotapes. [3] The underlying standards, including the Material Exchange Format (MXF) for digital content and metadata wrappers, are technically complex. [4] Dig4E provides interpretive and explanatory materials that would make these standards accessible to students and professional practitioners in libraries and archives.

Technical metadata requirements are a common element in digitization standards documentation across each of the learning modules (visual resources, analog audio, and analog video). Technical metadata are those elements of metadata required to describe the technical characteristics of the digital file that results from digitization activity. Good technical metadata is required for present day interoperability and a fundamental component of long-term preservation. Dig4E includes learning materials related to applicable technical metadata for digital still images, digitized analog sound recordings, and digitized analog videotapes.


Other important components of preservation-quality digitization are the digitization workflow process itself, including knowing how to specify a digital product to a third-party digitization service provider. A critical component of technical literacy is the mastery of the tools for calibrating imaging equipment, measuring system performance, and diagnosing problems. People who wish to adopt best practices for digitization also need explanatory and support materials for tools used to read and diagnose embedded metadata in image, audio, and video files.

[1] Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative. Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials, September 2016. http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/digitize-technical.html

[2] International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. IASA-TC 04 Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects (Second Edition, 2009). https://www.iasa-web.org/tc04/audio-preservation

[3] International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. IASA-TC 06 Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings (2018). https://www.iasa-web.org/tc06/guidelines-preservation-video-recordings

[4] FADGI. MXF Application Specification. http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/MXF_app_spec.html; FADGI. Digital File Formats for Videotape. http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/video_reformatting_compare.html