Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
ISSN 2148-077X
Effective Digitization in Archives
Burçak Şentürk
Department of Information and Records Management, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey
Research Article
Article history:
Received 4 January 2014
Received in revised form 28 March 2014
Accepted 1 May 2014
Available online 31 May 2014
Different techniques and methods are implemented by archivists in archives in order to
protect and ensure the maximum usage of archival material. Digitisation is one of these primary
techniques. It provides maximum usage and also protection of the archival material as well.
Besides the advantages of digitisation it is afterall a technical process. Thus it should be carried
out by experts, should be preplanned and factors like archival material and users should be
taken into consideration. Within this context in this study entitled ‘Effective Digitisation in
Archives’, the importance of digitisation in archives and the points that are important for an
effective digitisation are emphasized. In addition, the basic requirements for an effective
digitisation process are presented.
Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 11-15, 2014.
Keywords: Archives, Digitisation, Archival material.
Copyright © 2014 Balkan Libraries Union - All rights reserved.
Richard J. Cox (2000: 127) expresses the importance
of records as:
“A half century ago records were the raw materials of
history. Now, records are part of a vast accumulation of
materials weaving the fabric of the past. Society, rushing
head on with its many technologies in the front, struggles
to hold onto any semblance of a past. There is a fear that
records and archives will be lost.”
The importance of knowledge and records for people
and institutions is beyond argument. The people or
institutions that can manage knowledge and records will
be powerful. In order to achieve this it is strategically
important to protect knowledge and records.
Digitization can be defined simply as the transfer of
printed material to electronic media. Digitization is one of
the important techniques used in archives to protect
unique archival material. Besides, protection of material
digitization ensures usage of the material by more users.
However, the advantages of digitization are not limited to
Archivists and users should take into account certain
points relating to digitization which is of course a
comprehensive process. As mentioned previously,
digitization is a technical process and lots of phases are
interconnected in this process. Therefore for the success
of this process it is important for archivists and experts to
preplan it and prepare a road map. In this context in this
study entitled “Effective Digitization in Archives” the
basic requirements for an effective digitization process
are presented and they are collected under 5 basic steps.
Digitisation and Digital Preservation
Digitization is at the forefront of contemporary
concepts for archivists. As a result, it has been the topic of
many studies.
Digitization can be defined as:
 Digitization is the process of transforming analog
material into binary electronic (digital) form,
especially for storage and use in a computer
(Moses, 2005: 120).
 The process of creating digital files by scanning or
otherwise converting analogue materials. The
resulting digital copy, or digital surrogate, would
then be classed as digital material and then subject
to the same broad challenges involved in preserving
access to it, as "born digital" materials (Dpconline,
Digitization and digital preservation are sequential
processes. Digital preservation and digitization ensures
digital archives and digitization starts with digital
preservation. It is a process like digitization and it should
be carefully worked out.
Digital preservation refers to the series of managed
activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital
Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
materials for as long as necessary. Digital preservation is
defined very broadly for the purposes of this study and
refers to all of the actions required to maintain access to
digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or
technological change. Those materials may be records
created during the day-to-day business of an organization;
"born-digital" materials created for a specific purpose
(e.g. teaching resources); or the products of digitization
projects (Dpconline, 2012).
Jantz and Giarlo presents a four phased digital
preservation process and it is shown in Fig. 1
Fig. 1. Digital presentation workflow (Jantz and Giarlo, 2007)
Adrian Cunningham (2008: 541-542) states the
important elements for digital archives as follows:
Knowledge of
 the full range of record keeping theory and practice
and the role of archives in society;
 the relationship of records to the broader
information management landscape;
 the work processes of modern organizations, office
processes, and the machinery of government;
 current affairs and history;
 the workings of e-business and e-government;
 metadata regimes for discovery, recordkeeping, and
data management;
 legal, regulatory, and governance frameworks;
 information and communications technologies;
 auditing and compliance assessment approaches
and regimes;
 broader digital communities and initiatives;
 documentation of provenance and context in
archival systems;
 XML;
 approaches to quality control/assurance; and
 digital storage options and technologies.
 skills, capabilities, and qualities in communication,
influence, and change management
 consultation and negotiation;
 flexibility and good judgment;
 research;
 risk assessment and management;
 systems design and implementation;
 preparing business cases;
 modelling and analytical ability (including
functional and work process analysis); and disaster
preparedness and business continuity.
There can be some disadvantages of every technique in
institutions and it is valid for digitization too. These
disadvantages usually are coming from the digital
materials and during the planning process these
disadvantages derive from the characteristic features of
digital materials must taken into account. These
disadvantages are (Ford, 2007:33):
 Digital materials are only accessible through
Digital materials are stored on tapes or discs which
are short-lived if inappropriately managed
 Digital materials are prone to sudden oblivion due
to faulty materials or keyboard operator error
 Digital materials are frequently overtaken by new
versions of both hardware and software and
 Digital materials are often managed only poorly, if
at all.
Patricia Galloway (2011: 170) emphasizes the
importance of digitization in her article entitled
‘Educating for Digital Archiving through Studio
Pedagogy, Sequential Case Studies, and Reflective
Practice’ as follows:
“It is a truism of archival education that in order to
carry out their functions, all archivists are supposed to
know their holdings, how and by whom they were created,
valued, and used in their original and subsequent
contexts, and how to protect them for the future.
Protecting them for the future requires not only familiarity
with the contents of collections but also with the
technologies of the media that bear those contents, and
the technologies by which the contents were inscribed on
the media in question.”
James Bantin and Leah Agne (2010:244) also
emphasizes the importance of digitization in archives as
“Archival repositories bear an increasingly heavy
responsibility for the selection and digitization of
materials from their holdings. In addition to traditional
archival functional expectations, users and administrators
now expect archivists to provide extensive online access
to the unique and often still relatively hidden primary
sources contained in institutional collections. As a
consequence, the creation of online content and effective
digital reference service is now viewed as an additional
measure of success of a repository.”
Laura Millar (2010:199) presents the effects of
digitization as follows:
“Digitization is both a preservation strategy and an
access tool. Digitizing a document or image and making
it available electronically means the original does not
have to be handled repeatedly, reducing wear and
extending its life. As a preservation tool, digitization id
today what microfilming and photocopying were in
decades past: a means of extending the life of documents
by reformatting them for easier and less invasive use and
then storing the originals safely. Digitization also allows
users to Access materials remotely, meaning they do not
have to travel to the institution to view the material in
person. Digitization also supports outreach, helping to
raise awareness of the existence and scope of an
institution’s holdings by providing remote Access to
archival materials audiences well beyond the traditional
user group.”
Effective Digitisation in Archives
Digitization is such a process that is not easy to
implement because as mentioned before this technique
can be expensive and time consuming. Because of that,
archivists, managers and experts should plan the process
in detail and determine a road map.
Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
Digitization has many advantages for archival
material, user and archivists. These advantages are
compiled in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2. Advantages of digitization
There are many studies on digitization in archival
literature. In the studies important facts about digitization
and how it should be carried out is emphasized.
Conway (2014) expresses the importance points about
digitization as follows:
“The creation of digital surrogates from archival
sources is fundamentally a process of representation, far
more interesting and complex than merely copying from
one medium to another. Theories of representation and
the vast literature derived from them are at the heart of
many disciplines’ scholarship and of particular relevance
for scholars who work primarily or exclusively in the
digital domain.”
In this study a five phased road map for an effective
digitization process is determined and shown in Fig. 3.
Fig. 3. Basic requirements for an effective digitization process
Determining Written Corporate Strategies for
Written corporate strategies for digitization specify the
basic rules for the implementation of the process. Thus it
is important to determine written strategies and proceed
with these strategies.
Most of the national archives have strategies for
digitization. In this study the strategies and policies of the
National Archives of America (NARA) and the National
Archives of Australia for digitization are given as
NARA uses a combination of five strategies for
digitizing and making holdings available online ( National
Archives and Records Administration , 2008:3-4):
Strategy One: NARA will gather and make
available on the web archival materials that we
have already digitized in the course of performing
our agency functions but for one reason or another
are not available online.
 Strategy Two: NARA will establish partnerships
with organizations from a variety of sectors
Government) to digitize and make available
holdings. Partnerships present an opportunity for
increased access to historical Government
information through the increased availability of
information technology products and services.
Partnerships will enable NARA to make more
digitized holdings available than we could on our
own, because the partner will bear most of the
expense of digitizing.
 Strategy Three: NARA will conduct digitizing
projects on its own with materials that are not
appropriate for partnerships. For example, we
might digitize our “treasure vault,” at-risk material
that only NARA can handle, or high-interest
materials for which no partner can be found. These
projects could take a variety of forms, with a
variety of funding sources. The projects would be
crafted with an eye toward enabling NARA to
enhance its capacity to preserve and digitize
 Strategy Four: NARA will pursue digitization of
archival materials as part of its preservation
reformatting approach.
 Strategy Five: To ensure that users everywhere can
access all of our digitized records, we will continue
to make our online catalog (currently the Archival
Research Catalog, ARC) a hub for discovering
NARA’s digital images. Our partners, our
describers, and our digital labs are creating data
that we assimilate into ARC, so that users have
comprehensive access to NARA’s digital copies,
whether on NARA’s web site or our partners’ web
sites, regardless of their location on the web. Users
will not only be provided efficient access to the
records via the online catalog but will also have the
archival context of those records.’
The National Archives of Australia's Digital Transition
Policy aims to move Australian Government agencies to
digital recordkeeping for efficiency purposes. This
includes all agencies regardless of their legislative status.
Digital recordkeeping means that the majority of our
agency's records will be created, stored and managed
digitally and, where possible, incoming paper records will
be scanned so that new paper files are not created. For
many agencies the new policy means digital transition or
moving from paper-based records management to digital
information and records management (NAA, 2012).
The policy sets out the requirements for all Australian
government agencies and these are (NAA, 2012):
 Senior management support to drive change
 Check-up 2.0 self-assessments
 Reduce paper stockpiles
 Manage digital information wherever it is held
Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
Presenting the Main Aim of Digitization
The main aim of digitization should be presented to
determine if digitization is really necessary. It is also
important to clarify that digitization is needed for
institutions not to meet a loss. At this point the quantity
and the quality of archival material will be decisive. For
this purpose conducting a survey both with archivists and
users will be an efficient method.
Analysing Users
Digitization has two ultimate goals as mentioned
before. These are, to protect archival material and to
ensure maximum usage of archival material. For this
reason users’ needs and requirements are the elements
that direct digitization and therefore user analysis should
be performed.
Deborah Kaplan (2009: 35) summarizes the
important points about users of digital archives in her
article ‘'Choosing a Digital Asset Management System
That's Right for You’ as follows:
 If you are worried about preservation, then you
need to think about the user needs of archivists.
 If you are using the resources for administrative
purposes, then you need to worry about the user
needs of the departments in question, some of
which have very specific legal demands regarding
privacy, retention, and copyright.
 For resources used in the classroom, you need to
think about the user needs of both instructors and
 If you want to share your objects with the rest of
the Web, then you need to think about the needs of
those unaffiliated users and what you want them to
learn about your organization and its shared objects.
Performing Needs Analysis for Equipment and
The process of equipment and software analysis should
be handled as an infrastructure improvement work.
During this improvement process, firstly the equipment
and then the software should be provided.
There are some primary elements for digitization in
archives. These elements are (Guercio, 2001: 267):
 electronic protocol registries,
 electronic systems of classification and filing,
 digital scanning of traditional records (according to
a costs/benefits analysis),
 and creation and maintenance of records in
electronic forms (by using digital signatures).
Ensuring Technological Transformation of
Archivists and Users
Digitization brings about the usage of technological
products and systems. Therefore the transformation of
archivists and users should be ensured in order to get
maximum benefit from digital records. Education
programs can be planned and implemented to provide the
technological transformation of archivists and users.
There are lots of points that can be emphasized about
digitization because it is a very comprehensive process.
The most important point is to analyze the archival
material, users and resources of the institution before
conducting the process because they are the important
ones that shape digitization.
A reliable digital repository is one whose mission is to
provide long-term access to managed digital resources;
that accepts responsibility for the long-term maintenance
of digital resources on behalf of its depositors and for the
benefit of current and future users; that designs its
system(s) in accordance with commonly accepted
conventions and standards to ensure the ongoing
management, access, and security of materials deposited
within it; that establishes methodologies for system
evaluation that meet community expectations of
trustworthiness; that can be depended upon to carry out its
long-term responsibilities to depositors and users openly
and explicitly; and whose policies, practices, and
performance can be audited and measured (Jantz and
Giarlo, 2007: 196).
Richard Pearce Moses (2007: 16) has two different
scenarios about digitization. These are:
Maybe the status quo is the worst-case scenario. Some
archivists are working hard to address the issues of
digital records. Although I have often spoken of “new
skills for a digital era,” those skills are not new to a few
archivists who have been working with digital materials
for decades. The problem is that the skills are new to
many in the profession. In this bleak scenario, the
archival profession fails to adapt to the digital era. Not
enough archivists master the new skills.
We will have passed through a variety of doors and
solved the problems of selecting, acquiring, and
preserving the fragile digital records that hold society’s
memories. These records are well organized and easy to
use. We will have found a way to harness technology to
do our jobs better. People use archives frequently, in part
because they find it so easy to get the information they
need. As important, they trust us because we offer them
valuable assistance.”
In conclusion like Cunningham (2008: 543)
“Ultimately, digital archiving is not just an interesting
source of research projects and academic theorizing. Our
national and state institutions, in the face of pressing
societal and organizational needs, must develop
Journal of Balkan Libraries Union
Bantin, J. and Agne, L. (2010) ‘Digitizing for Value: A
User-Based Strategy for University Archives’, Journal of
Archival Organization, 8 (3-4), 244-250.
Cox, R. (2000) Closing an Era: Historical Perspectives
on Modern Archives and Records Management. London:
Greenwood Publishing.
Cunningham, A. (2008) ‘Digital Curation/Digital
Archiving: A View from the National Archives of
Australia’, The American Archivist, 71: 530-543.
Dpconline (2012) Preservation handbook. Available at:
roduction/definitions-and-concepts [Accessed 31 January
Forde, H. (2007) Preserving Archives. London: Facet
Authors’ Biographies
Burçak Şentürk was born in Istanbul,
Turkey in 1980. She received a B.A.
degree in information and records
management in 2002, and an M.A. degree
and PhD degree also in information and
records management from Marmara
University in 2005 and 2010 respectively.
She joined the Marmara University
Department of Information and Records
Management in 2003 as research assistant
and she has now been an Assistant
Professor in the same department since
2011. Her major study areas are archival
science, archivists, records management,
and information technology in egovernment applications. She has made
various scholarly contributions in these
Galloway, P. (2011) ‘Educating for Digital Archiving
through Studio Pedagogy, Sequential Case Studies, and
Reflective Practice’, Archivaria, 71(72):169-196.
Guercio, M. (2001) ‘Principles, Methods, and Instruments
for the Creation, Preservation, and Use of Archival
Records in the Digital Environment’, The American
Archivist, 64: 238-269.
Jantz, R. and Giarlo, M. (2007) ‘Digital Archiving and
Preservation: Technologies and Processes for a Trusted
Repository’, Journal of Archival Organization, 4(1): 193213.
Kaplan, D. (2009) ‘Choosing a Digital Asset Management
System That's Right for You’, Journal of Archival
Organization, 7(1): 33-40.
Millar. L. A. (2010) Archives: Principles and Practices.
London: Facet Publishing,
Moses, R. P. (2005) A Glossary of Archival and Records
Management Terminology. Chicago: The Society of
American Archivists.
Moses, R. P. (2007) ‘Janus in Cyberspace: Archives on
the Threshold of the Digital Era’, The American Archivist,
70: 13-22.
NAA (2012) Digital transition policy. Available at: [Accessed 1 October 2012].
National Archives and Records Administration (2008)
Strategy for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public