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Digitizing Collections: In house or outsourcing?

A guide for digitizing collections for access and preservation.


  1. Planning 
  2. Selection
  3. Digitizing materials
  4. Processing files, creating master and access files
  5. Metadata creation or re-purposing
  6. Digital preservation of master files
  7. Presentation of access files in an online content management platform

Pros & Cons

Pros & Cons of digitizing in-house or outsourced


  • Develop experience by ‘doing it’
  • Retain control over the entire  process 
  • Can adjust requirements as you go. 
  • Direct participation in development of image collections 


  • May require large initial and ongoing financial investment
  • Project timeline may be longer
  • Production capacity is limited
  • Staff expertise not always available
  • High institution costs.
  • Need to enforce standards and best practices



Creating a workspace

  • Size of space depends on what you plan to do
  • It needs to be secure and safe for your equipment & materials
  • It needs to support productivity and image quality
    • Lighting needs to be consistent, typically low or no room light
    • Climate controlled?
    • Audio conversion has special requirements

Imaging workstation

What you need will depend on what you are digitizing. 

  • Digital Camera (DSLR), 50mm lens
  • Copy stand 
  • Lights and light stands
  • Book Cradle, weights and other tools to help hold items in place
  • Computer workstation
  • Photoshop (with Bridge and CameraRaw)
  • Hard Drive storage, cloud backup
  • Flatbed scanner
  • Film/Slide scanner

There are also special book scanners, wide format scanners and high end drum scanners

Working with a Vendor

Tips for working with a vendor

  • Do a formal proposal (RFI, RFQ, RFP)
  • What security do they provide for your objects? Consider visitng the site
  • What is their experience with cultural heritage collections?
  • What kind of equipment do they use?
  • Can they meet your file standards?
  • Be clear about who holds ownership of the digital files
  • Establish a timeline
  • Ask them to do a test
  • Be sure to have a signed contract

Resources for Outsourcing

Outsourcing Your Digitization

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.