Digitization Of Documents, Books, Vital Records, Correspondence & More.
Printed, handwritten, and even drawn content contained in the city, county, state, personal, and even business documents provide invaluable insight into the people, places, events, and accounts in a “snapshot of time”. Whether your document is a day old, or 200 years old, Advantage has the technology, experience and expertise to provide you with archiving and access options that will fit your institution or organizations specific needs.
Advantage has been providing our partners with archival and access solutions for records of historical interest, local history, and business records across the United States, and is uniquely positioned to accommodate both preservation and digital access solutions for the content contained on paper that is at risk of being lost due to handling and the erosion of time.
We do not have an “out-of-the-box” approach to digital conversions. Our experience substantiates the common-sense premise that every partner’s needs are somewhat different, even within the same industry, government agency and application area. As a result, every Advantage project is customized and tailored to specific partner requirements.
Historical documents contain important clues to our past and put the events of the past into perspective. Documents of “historical significance” is a subjective concept, as almost any document, journal, yearbook, and even a receipt will tell a story and make a tangible connection to an era gone by. The words and images provide insight into the lives of previous generations. They help us understand history from a personal perspective: How did people interact? What was the attitude of the day? What were common business practices? How much did a loaf of bread cost? Who lived in my old house? When was my town incorporated? What was my grandmother like in high school? What other relatives lived near my uncle’s farm? What was the population of my county when my great grandfather migrated here? Almost anything printed on paper can paint a picture of the way our family, community, business, state, or country existed at almost any time in history. Amongst the most common requests Advantage gets for document conversion projects includes family histories, vital records, deeds, laws, maps, war records, and photographs.
Many government agencies have done a fantastic job in maintaining older governmental records and storing them in appropriate conditions, however public access to these documents remains limited. These include birth records, death certificates, marriage documents, land records, maps, etc. that were often recorded in large permanently bound archival fibers.
Our successful project management methodologies, preservation, and conversion experience on documents old and new are backed up by outstanding references in government and almost every paper-intensive industry. Methods range from single page processing with manual data entry to high-speed OCR / ICR, forms processing and media conversions. Our web-based document hosting affords companies the ability to archive and process data on a real-time basis. Secure access is available to authorized users from any location. We fully administer our sites for backup, software and hardware upgrades, security monitoring, etc.
As with any major project, the key to creating the comfort zone you need to get started is by breaking the many moving parts into smaller, more manageable pieces. Identifying, sorting, organizing, scanning boxes and boxes of paper documents into a logical system easy for all the stakeholders to use is a major undertaking.
The basic steps of this process will include some or all of the following:
- Inventorying of documents that need to be converted
- Boxing and transportation of required paper documents
- Preparing documents for scanning (removing staples, paper clips, ragged edges, etc.)
- Scanning paper documents to agreed-upon format
- Indexing to specifications that make sense for your organization or institution
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to permit easy search on scanned documents
- Loading indexed, scanned images to a Community History Archive or other document management system
- Return or destruction of the scanned documents
You may have questions regarding the digitization of your microfilm collection… Let us give you some answers!
- A Digital Archive Will Save Time
- It Will Improve The Accuracy Of Research
- It Will Help Preserve The Physical Microfilm
- It Can Protect Your Previous Investment In Microfilm
- It Provides Valuable Patron & Community Service
A Digital Archive Will Save Time
Keyword searching allows library staff and patrons to find information within seconds of typing in a name or search term. Less time spent researching by thumbing through pages of newspapers or microfilm is more time spent assisting patrons & working on other projects or programs for the library.
For example: Patron A calls the library looking for “John Smith’s” obituary believing “John Smith” passed away between 1910–1920. Reference staff spends two weeks flipping through one page at a time finding every John Smith that passed between 1910–1920. Patron A calls back and says I’m sorry it was between 1900–1907. Three weeks have been lost to researching an obituary. Keyword searching allows phrase searching for every newspaper page containing the phrase “John Smith”. Once that term has been searched, reference staff just has to click through each indexed year in their database from 1910–1920. Those years will be filtered by the search term “John Smith” (only the articles containing the term “John Smith” will appear for that year once searched). Three weeks of research via microfilm is now an hour of research on a computer.
Sidney Public Library Director Andrew Sherman sums up the problem:
“We get a lot of requests from people to find information in the old local newspapers we have on microfilm,” said Mr. Sherman, “and the issue we have is, if the person doesn’t have a good idea of the date or a fairly limited date range for us to search, with our staff, it’s just not practical for us.”
Like many of our partners, Bossard Memorial Library director Debbie Saunders also knows the limitations of microfilm at her library in terms of accessibility.
“While it was great that patrons could come in and search the microfilm in-house, it wasn’t searchable in a really efficient way,” said Saunders. “We now have an online searchable index of every paper since 1895…We just believed in the value of it and what it will do for people in terms of their research capability, even if you’re not doing real in-depth research you can learn a lot about local history or family members.”
Melinda Krick, editor of The Paulding Progress agrees:
“So many times we’ve tried to research something, and it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you had a date to go by. This makes research so much easier and productive.” BUT…you might WANT to spend a bit more time on your research. “It is easy to get lost browsing through the archives.”
It Will Improve The Accuracy Of Research
Keyword searching & indexing of archives assures staff of a higher percentage rate return on finding information their patrons need. Computer searches can find people, phrases, places, and events people can overlook after hours of researching a newspaper page by page. Once your newspaper is digitized, each newspaper page will be keyword searchable. It is much more efficient than the “old way”.
Without a searchable archive, to locate a name, an event, or anything else of significance, you first need to know a date, or at least a fairly narrow date range. Once you find the right cabinet, drawer, and finally the reel, containing that date range of the newspaper you were looking for…then the work begins. Thread the microfilm reader…now rethread it correctly, change the lens…then realize the one you had initially was the correct one…then start scrolling. Then scroll some more. Keep scrolling. Scroll a bit longer… until you find the single page you want out of the 900 or more on the reel. Now locate the article. Now find the name, place, or event that started you on this journey in the first place. Then rewind the reel, and put it back, so you can repeat the process for the next item on your list.
Is there any question that things will be overlooked, or instances missed? How complete can one’s research be utilizing this method? Wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient to just search for “John Kennedy’s” name and have every instance of it presented to you, to begin with? Then (equally efficiently), have it highlighted on the image if “John Kennedy” appears on that newspaper page? Searching within newspaper pages also allows researchers to uncover the information they would otherwise have overlooked.
Toby Schwartzman, public service director for the James V. Brown Library knows that for the individuals using the library’s resource of film, looking for one particular article or obituary without the exact date it was published is nearly impossible.
“You are reading the newspaper very arduously. You have to already know what you are looking for.”
A digital archive allows you to give your historical documents a new life, and give your community an easy-to-use resource, by converting your local newspaper microfilm, and other historical documents, to a fully-searchable digital archive. The Community History Archives serve as a practical means to explore and discover content that was not easily accessible before. Preserving the historic content on microfilm ensures that the “first rough draft of history” is available for future generations. Using digitization as a supplement (not a replacement) to your long-term archival strategy opens up a very real way for the members of your community to connect with their history.
It Will Help Preserve The Physical Microfilm
We stand by our convections: Microfilm is for preservation, digitization is for access. Hard copy newspaper, microfilm, & microfilm readers wear down with every year and every use. Researching digitally is not only a more efficient way of searching, it also helps further preserve the preservation copy from deteriorating over time with use.
Caribou Public Library Director Anastasia Weigle, sums it up well when she says:
“Archivists know it’s not the newspaper that’s valuable, but the content in that paper. We have a number of publications we can’t even bring out of the box because they’re just falling apart.”
Oils from the skin are acidic and can damage film, and compromise newspaper and other original documents. Oil from fingerprints also collects dust, which is abrasive and can cause scratches on your film. If your microfilm readers are not properly cleaned and maintained, or covered when not in use, it too can be a source of damage. Dust, oils, and particles settle on the glass and become abrasive. Paper is even more fragile and less stable. Humidity, temperature variations, and other environmental factors compound the risk.
Your microfilm or original paper materials will deteriorate from the normal wear of use. Digitization allows for the reels and documents to be handled only by your staff.
It Can Protect Your Previous Investment In Microfilm
Have we mentioned that we think the microfilm reels are a preservation medium? Due to the wear and tear on your microfilm service copies, you will find yourself periodically replacing damaged reels, or losing the content because the replacement costs become too high.
We believe the microfilm should be purchased once and handled as little as possible. The more it is used the higher the chance of scratches, tears, and other forms of deterioration caused by oily fingerprints, contact with the hard (and often unclean) reader surfaces, improper storage, and careless handling. Another thing to consider is how long you will be able to source parts for, or find someone to service, the microfilm readers in your institution.
As long as your microfilm remains in the condition in which you purchased it, you will always be able to re-scan, or reformat your digital images from the best available source materials. If your film is unable to provide the image quality you find acceptable. At that point you must purchase a duplicate, borrow for an institution that may have a better quality copy, or in extreme cases, pay to re-film from bound volumes or other paper documents if you can locate it.
Nevada Library Director Shanna Speer was fortunate to find better quality film from the State Historical Society of Iowa, stored in the Advantage Archives microfilm storage facility:
“The digitization of the paper for the library will actually be done through the newspaper microfilm negatives that are owned by the State Historical Society, rather than those owned by the library. That’s because the film owned by the State Historical Society has never been used except to make a positive copy of the film. Therefore, there are no scratches or blemishes on the film, so it will allow for the best digital copy.”
However, we work with many libraries across the country that have experienced “expensive creep” when it comes to their digitization efforts, due to the costs associated with time spent locating and evaluating copies of microfilm in better shape than theirs or purchasing copies from a vendor. Purchasing replacement duplications of the microfilm is a viable option, however, our position remains…you should only have to replace at-risk film suffering from vinegar syndrome or redox. All other factors can and should be mitigated by limited handling and proper storage.
It Provides Valuable Patron & Community Service
The most important reason as to why your institution should consider a digital Community History Archive created from your existing microfilm collection, maybe the most obvious: To provide a valuable service that meets or exceeds its patron’s & community members’ needs. The faster you can find the information they need, the more you and your staff can be devoted to other projects, allowing for those resources to be directed towards other meaningful projects.
Libraries are at the very heart of your community and serve as an essential component of collecting, preserving, and providing access to information and engaging the community. There is no better way to accomplish that than offering innovative services and creating tangible ways to learn, connect, and facilitate a culture of discovery. The Community History Archives help facilitate these objectives and likely align with your institution’s guiding principles and mission statement.
Ryan Gjerde, Luther College Preus Library director, recognizes the vehicle that their new Community History Archive can serve in the library’s outreach efforts.
“We are excited that this project will unlock a significant source of local history for casual and serious researchers and genealogists, and perhaps even students in local schools…we look forward to reaching out to local groups who might be interested in training on how to use the collection.”