In a previous post we covered when to consider museum digitization vendors. If a museum digital project calls for working with a digitization vendor, the next step is to put digital project specifications in place.
While project specifications are always good to establish in-house, they are particularly important to establish with vendors so that miscommunications and costly mistakes can be avoided.
What are Digital Project Specifications?
Digital project specifications are details specific to a project that establish standards and best practices, workflows, timelines, outcomes, and budget. For museums who work in-house regularly, aspects such as best practices, workflow, and outcomes are well known and other potential issue areas like timeline and budget are negligible. However, when museum staff work with an outside vendor they need to take extra care to establish digital project specifications.
When Should Digital Project Specifications be Given to the Vendor?
If your museum has decided to work with an outside vendor, one of the first things to do is create the digital project specifications. These should be worked on with the relevant museum staff and approved by the appropriate museum executive staff. Once vendor specifications are complete, I recommend museum staff supply them to any digitization vendor they speak with. This will help initial discussions in the following ways:
- Will alert the digitization vendor to specifications they need to meet
- Will prompt any important clarification questions from the digitization vendors in order to accurately understand your project
- Will help you determine whether or not the digitization vendor can meet the digital project needs
What to Include in the Digital Project Specifications
As digitization vendors vary in specialty and clientele, museum staff will need to document each and every specification required for the digital project. I recommend the specifications include:
- Scanning equipment to use
- Resolution required
- Output file type
- File naming convention
- Digital folder hierarchy or how to organize digital files
- Metadata to include
- How to deliver digital items
- Timeline for digitization with recommended milestones
- Details for how to receive and return museum objects (whether shipping or delivery)
- Contract and insurance requirements
How to Make Sure Digital Specifications are Adhered To
Providing the digital project specifications at the beginning of vendor conversations is only the first step in ensuring that specifications are followed. These are the additional steps to follow to make sure the digitization vendor completes the project correctly:
- Ask the digitization vendor to submit a proposal that includes the specifications and how they plan to meet them
- Verify that all specifications are adequately and accurately addressed within the vendor proposal
- If the vendor is supplying the contract, make sure the museum specifications are included within the contract
- Or, more typically, if the museum is providing the contract then the specifications should be part of the Scope of Work section
- During the project periodically review the digital products to ensure they meet the agreed upon project specifications
- If there are any corrections or adjustments contact the vendor immediately to implement a corrective action
- When the project is complete conduct a final and thorough review to ensure that all project specifications have been met, and most importantly, the outcomes outlined with the specifications have been met
- Make sure to pay the vendor on time and using the agreed upon method
Taking the time to outline digital project specifications at the beginning of the project and periodically reviewing them during the project will help to ensure a successful vendor experience and, more importantly, a successful digital project.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for museum collections management and download your free copy of Rachael’s book from Lucidea Press, How to Select, Buy, and Use a Museum CMS.
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For each museum digitization project, research and identify equipment and software tools, outline and commit to standards, keep end result(s) in mind