Low-cost digitization of manuscript materials

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Just published!
DeRidder, Jody L.; Presnell, Amanda Axley; and Walker, Kevin W. “Leveraging Encoded Archival Descriptions for Access to Digital Content: A Cost and Usability Analysis,” in American Archivist (Spring/Summer 2012), Vol. 75, Iss. 1.

Back in 2010, we were involved in an NHPRC-funded grant project to digitize the Septimus D. Cabaniss papers, developing a low-cost, scalable model to provide access to digitized content via the finding aid. This is important, because few institutions have the personnel or funding to digitize medium to large manuscript collections with item-level metadata description.

As part of the grant project, we performed usability testing, to compare this type of interface, which echoes the experience of a researcher in the reading room, with that of accessing digitized content with item-level description (not linked into a finding aid). The article above describes this test and its findings. One of the most significant findings, from my perspective, was that those without experience in digital libraries found it easier to locate content by browsing the finding aid, and accessing material from there (required 42% less time, 27% fewer clicks, and found desired content with 12% greater success). This bodes well for the future, as we need low-cost methods of digitization.

Also, we compared the cost of mass-digitizing content using this model versus our usual item-level-description workflow. The results were astounding. The mass-digitization model requires 47% less time and was 68% cheaper. Digitizing this 46,663 scan collection (over 31 linear feet) using the new model saved us over $78,000.

Amanda Presnell, who was the Project Manager for this grant project, is now leaving us to follow her husband to Ohio. She leaves behind her a huge gap, as we’ve become heavily dependent upon her. Can you fill her shoes? If you or someone you know qualifies and would be good for this position, please direct them to:

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