How to Choose the Right Tools for Museum Digital Projects

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

September 22, 2021

Within a museum collection, there are many item types ripe for digitization. In the previous two posts we identified the common item types to be digitized, the tools (equipment and software), and the digitization standards (resolution and file format) to consider when determining the digitization project framework. Finally, it’s time to consider what the desired end result of the digitization project is as a way to guide final decisions on digitization tools and file outputs.

Identify the Desired End Result

There can be several reasons why museum staff opt to begin a digitization project. Sometimes it’s a project of opportunity with a new resource or partnership that’s become available. Other times it’s driven by crisis when an item becomes unstable or damaged. Regardless of the impetus, it’s important (whenever possible) to review and prioritize what’s driving the end result.

  • Preservation: The item is at risk of decay or loss and the only way to preserve any part of it is to digitize it. As this is likely the last time it can be digitized, it needs to be done well, at a high resolution, and in a sustainably accessible file format.
  • Access: Access to the item or the information the item contains is a priority. By digitizing the item and publishing it via the museum CMS, we are providing access to this item.
  • Data: The information that can be revealed, calculated, and/or manipulated thanks to digitization tools can provide increased informational value that can be mined. For example: A 3D rendering of a cultural heritage site using photogrammetry or LIDAR.

How to Choose the Right Digitization Tools

Digitization tools (equipment and software) are dictated or governed by the following:

  • Item type
  • Digitization standards
  • Desired end result
  • Your technical ability
  • Your time available for the project
  • Your budget

The key is to find a balance among the assets and shortcomings of museum resources in order to execute the museum project that meets your needs, follows standards, and hopefully fits both your skill and budget available. Speaking of…

When to Consider a Vendor or Contractor

There are a few instances in which hiring a contractor or outside vendor can be beneficial. For example, when:

  1. There’s little to no staff time or expertise
  2. You don’t have the right equipment
  3. There’s no budget or working space for the right tools

Conclusion

Museum digitization projects are a great vehicle to use to serve up collections. Once items are digitized there are multiple benefits. To start, the item now has a digital file that preserves its form and content, the museum can now provide instant access to that item online, and we can all learn more from it with the digitization tools used. The long-term benefit to a digitization project done well is that if the item was digitized with the right tools and standards, museum staff shouldn’t have to digitize that item again for a very, very long time. Hopefully, never! With this in mind, when the next digitization project comes up, ask museum staff to research and identify what equipment and software tools they need, have them outline and commit to the standards they intend to follow, and keep your end result(s) in mind when making any digitization project decision.

Additional Reading

Are you interested in reading more? Please check out these related posts on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: 

What to Do When It’s Your First Museum Digitization Project

3D Digitization in the Museum – Part 1: Photogrammetry

3D Digitization in the Museum – Part 2: LIDAR

RTI Digitization in the Museum

When to Consider Museum Digitization Vendors

Who Owns Digital Culture? An Important Question Museums Must Consider

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, Ms. Woody is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and a popular presenter. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “How to Choose the Right Tools for Museum Digital Projects” on September 29, 2021. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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