It used to be when I taught how to do digital projects, we said that you should have good metadata about your content before your digitized it, because without good metadata, how could anyone find what you had digitized? Ignoring for now, the question of what “good” metadata was or is, this left us with digitizing only those things we know well, and could create metadata for.
Luckily the scanning process was so slow that we could pretty much keep up with the scanning throughput–we generally did cataloging while we waited for the scanner to slide across the bed of the Epson 1600.
Well, as is the theme of this blog, times change. Scanners are faster–in fact we use camera capture rather than scanners, and much of our content comes to us born digital so we don’t have the digital capture bottleneck to worry about.
Now the bottleneck is metadata creation. The previous post alluded to one process approach to automating data entry, today I want to talk about a philosophical approach.
Rather than digitizing things that are well described, I’m advocating digitizing and making available things that are not well described as well. One approach to research access to analog archival collections was to “get reasearchers to the right box” and if you were really lucky to the right folder, and then let them have at it to find what they wanted.
We can apply that same idea to digital resources. Making available 2,000 images each with the title “Commencement 2016” serves the same purpose as giving a researcher a box of photos for them to sort through. But, with an online access tool, I can browse dozens of photos at once, zoom in on interesting ones in ways I can’t do easily with the analog version (if one exists) . I have done the technological equivalent of getting them to the box.